I was under the impression that the pharmaceutical industry, at least the larger companies, were staying away from social media, having been warned by the FDA that this would be a source of friction (see: AstraZeneca Pays for Personal Health Coaches, Develops Other Health App). But it turns out that not all the companies were in accord here as I learned in a recent article (see: F.D.A. Warns Company Over Kardashian Instagram Marketing). Below is an excerpt from it:
The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to a drug company, saying a celebrity’s promotion of its morning sickness product on Instagram failed to give information about the drug’s risks. The F.D.A. sent the letter to the company, Duchesnay ..., on Aug. 7 after Kim Kardashian West, the reality star who is currently pregnant, posted a picture of herself holding a bottle of Diclegis, its drug for morning sickness. The image appeared on her Instagram page with a message saying she had used it and was “partnering” with the company to “raise awareness” about the morning-sickness treatment. Ms. Kardashian West’s post was linked to her other social media accounts, potentially reaching tens of millions of followers. In the warning letter to ....Duchesnay’s executive vice president, the F.D.A. published Ms. Kardashian West’s post in full....The post included links to the drug’s website and its safety information, but Robert T. Dean, a director at the F.D.A.’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion, said that was not enough. He said the post neglected to mention the drug’s risks and that it had not been tested in women with hyperemesis gravid arum a condition marked by severe nausea and vomiting....Ms. Kardashian West’s Instagram post was reported through the agency’s “Bad Ad” program that takes tips about misleading advertising and promotions.The F.D.A.’s warning letter represents a wider challenge the federal agency faces with the proliferation of online content. Thomas Abrams, the director of the drug promotion office, said in a 2013 interview that social media had complicated the agency’s ability to monitor drug promotions, citing the sheer volume of materials online and the speed with which they can be changed. He said the agency had taken action against other posts on Facebook and YouTube, including one involving a television celebrity.
There is no question that social media could provide some pharmaceutical companies the opportunity for marketing mischief. This initiative by Duchesnay is illustrative of this fact. Because of policy constraints on the FDA, the agency is focusing on the lack of appropriate mention of the risks of Diclegis in the Instagram post. The drug is used to alleviate morning sickness in pregnant women. In my opinion, the far larger problem is to associate the use of a drug with a celebrity for marketing purposes. Diclegis has been in hot water with the FDA previously regarding this drug (see: FDA busts Kim Kardashian selfie for leaving out drug side effects):
This isn't the first complaint levied against the makers of Diclegis, either: Duchesnay (the drug's producer) was notified of an infraction in November 2013 when the drug was first announced. "OPDP [Office of Prescription Drug Promotion] is concerned that Duchesnay is continuing to promote Diclegis in a violative manner," the FDA wrote.
Unfortunately, Duquesnay comes out of all of this looking like a winner (see: FDA Rebukes Kim Kardashian for Morning-Sickness Drug Ad on Instagram But pharma marketer Diclegis wins big anyway):
The entire brouhaha appears to be a big victory for Diclegis, though, according to Treato, an Internet-based intelligence company focused on the health sector. The Princeton, N.J.-based company, which analyzes social media and other online channels to come to its findings, concluded that Kardashian helped get Diclegis a more than 500 percent increase in digital buzz in July. Kardashian's Instagram post alone garnered 450,000 likes. It appears highly likely that the Kardashian-FDA dustup will only create more brand awareness for Diclegis. Consequently, it's reasonable to assume that the 2-year-old brand, which is marketed by Blainville, Québec-based Duchesnay Inc., will see a nice uptick in sales.