Congressman pushes to unshackle pharma on social media

Rep. Billy Long

A congressman is taking aim at perceived flaws in FDA's long-awaited, much-discussed guidance on the use of Twitter ($TWTR). The centerpiece of the bill put forward by Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) would allow pharma companies to communicate risks and benefits in hyperlinks, overturning a stipulation of the FDA guidance that severely restricted how the industry can use Twitter.

The requirement to include all risk and benefit information in each post--which in the case of Twitter are only 140 characters long--was one of the more contentious terms of the guidance posted by the FDA one year ago. In the weeks and months after the release of the guidance, some ad execs concluded the basic message from the FDA was don't use Twitter, while BIO, PhRMA and others used the comment period to criticize the risk it would stifle scientific exchanges. Critics of the guidance think they have the Constitution on their side, citing the First Amendment in their broadsides against the FDA.

Such dissenting voices now have an ally in Congress. The bill introduced by Long would allow pharma companies to hyperlink to risk and benefit information, freeing them from the impossible challenge of squeezing everything into 140 characters. Long and his team think this will enable important and useful communication. "Those who have the best information, the drug manufacturers, cannot communicate information in ways people will see it easiest," Cole Karr, Long's press secretary, told FiercePharmaMarketing. "In the 21st Century, it is time to update that."

The push to make such an update is just getting started. Long introduced the bill into the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee and must now work to convince his fellow members of the group to back the legislation. Part of the argument Long is making is that the current approach is irrational. "FDA uses Twitter to link its announcements to more comprehensive information. It is common sense for the federal government to allow drug manufacturers to use these platforms in a similar fashion," Long said in a statement.

- read FiercePharmaMarketing's article
- here's Long's press release
- and the bill