• FDA No Facebook "Friend" Of Novartis (Part II)
  • August 23, 2010
  • Law Firm: Holland Hart LLP - Denver Office
  • The FDA’s citation to Novartis last week for violations of Federal Law in its use of Facebook “Share” button on its Tasigna website without proper disclosures in the meta tagging, underscore recent concerns about big pharma use of social media and Internet technology to market product. On March 1, 2010, the Center for Digital Democracy an on-line consumer watchdog sent a letter to the FDA requesting that it join the FTC in developing rules for the use of behavioral targeting in on-line marketing and the undertaking of a comprehensive investigation into the use and impact of digital marketing techniques and technologies.

        The letter stated,

    Few U.S. Health consumers are aware that they are being identified, labeled, profiled ad tracked on the Internet while they search or access information on specific conditions and concerns.

    See http://www.democraticmedia.org/press-release-drugs-and-health-marketing.

        Behavioral targeting involves the use of online video and advertising networks to create a “disease” or “condition” specific channel for marketing without disclosure of the identity of the sponsor.  The behavior of individual consumers on-line is monitored to develop a profile of their potential interest in particular diseases or conditions, so that they can receive targeted information from the drug companies.

        Some social media marketing applications involve drug company eavesdropping and analyzing conversations by consumers on user networks and chat rooms.  Some physician chat rooms are also monitored by drug companies, sometimes with and sometimes without knowledge by the participants of the the lurking going on behind the scenes.

        So called geo-medical targeting services focus on large condition specific audiences for such conditions as diabetes, COPD, depression and Heart health to present and move pharma product. One network calling itself “The caring alliance” connects advertisers and publishers with family care givers and decision makers who are responsible for aging parents.

        A number of companies are also using neuroscience or neuromarketing subliminal techniques to influence unconscious decision making. 

        Big pharma is not the only industry using these techniques of course and there are those who value and appreciate receiving the information and those who are offended by what can appear to be a gross invasion of privacy.  It appears that the FDA will focus on the content from the drug companies themselves and not address or concern itself with the added content by consumers in the “comment” sections of on-line media.