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Urging for FDA Action: Senators Highlight the Need for Updated Guidance on Social Media Prescription Drug Promotions

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Ethan Sulliva
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Urging for FDA Action: Senators Highlight the Need for Updated Guidance on Social Media Prescription Drug Promotions

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The Call for Updated FDA Guidelines

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Senators from both political parties are pressurizing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to modernize its decade-old guidelines regarding prescription drug promotion on social media platforms. This appeal comes in the wake of a troubling report from the Wall Street Journal, which highlighted a sharp increase in misleading social media adverts from telehealth companies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The senators have voiced concerns about the antiquated guidance on prescription drug advertisement on social media and have demanded a response from the FDA by March 27.

Exploitation of Direct-to-Consumer Promotions

The senators have cited instances where patients, influenced by the praise of certain drugs on social media platforms, requested their doctors to prescribe these medications. The result, in many cases, was severe side effects. A separate investigation revealed that teenagers suffering from chronic health conditions were more likely to be persuaded by pharmaceutical advertising propagated via influencers and social media personalities. The senators have included a list of questions related to prescription-drug advertising policies for the FDA to address by March 27.

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Telehealth Companies and FDA Regulations

Telehealth companies have previously argued that FDA regulations around advertising do not apply to them as they do not manufacture, pack, or distribute drugs. However, the senators also questioned whether the FDA would support legislation designed to close potential loopholes in its supervision of telehealth companies.

The Direct-to-Consumer Model

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In related news, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly launched LillyDirect, a direct-to-consumer healthcare program. LillyDirect offers access to telehealth providers and home delivery of medications for diabetes, obesity, and migraines. Experts have expressed mixed opinions on the program, voicing concerns about potential biases and limitations since the program only provides access to Lilly medications.

Concerns about Drug Company Involvement

While the program’s stated aim is to simplify the patient experience and improve access to medications, including affordable solutions, there are concerns about the involvement of drug companies in the patient-provider relationship. Some critics have also raised alarms over potential shortages of certain medications, such as tirzepatide for obesity. Meanwhile, the FDA has issued warnings about counterfeit semaglutide in the U.S. drug supply chain, further underscoring the need for robust oversight and regulation.

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