Social media has become a critical component of a company’s product marketing and promotion. However, based on FDA’s increased enforcement action around social media activity, it is a risk to be carefully considered.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published a December 11, 2012 warning letter on its website that cited a dietary supplement company for its improper social media activity, among other things. Specifically, the warning letter explained that the supplement company’s “liking” of a consumer testimonial posted to its product Facebook page was a violative claim in that it established the product as a drug intended to cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease. The FDA noted in its warning letter that the liking of the following March 10, 2011 Facebook post by the company constituted an impermissible disease claim:
“[Product]has done wonders for me. I take it intravenously 2x a week and it has helped me tremendously. It enabled me to keep cancer at bay without the use of chemo and radiation.”
The company has since removed this content from its Facebook page.
This is not the first time that FDA has scrutinized a company’s use of social media. In the past two years, over a dozen companies have been cited by FDA for making improper claims on the company or product Facebook page or Twitter account. However, this is the first time FDA has interpreted that a “like” implies endorsement of an unapproved claim.
There is some speculation that a crackdown on similar social media activities, such as “retweeting” a post on Twitter or “+1” on Google+, might be next on FDA’s agenda. In light of this regulatory risk, companies should ensure consider drafting formal social media policies and thoroughly vetting all social media marketing strategies to avoid enforcement action.