Bayer joins social media follies with tweet apology

Pharma's forays into social media have been tentative at best. Drugmakers never know when they'll take a step outside the lines. Consider Bayer, which was forced to apologize to U.K. watchdogs for two seemingly innocuous tweets, one about the erectile dysfunction drug Levitra and the other on Sativex, a multiple sclerosis treatment.

BNet Pharma reproduces the offending Levitra tweet, a 13-word announcement Bayer had launched a melt-in-the-mouth version of the drug. Actually, the tweet didn't mention Levitra by name, only referred to it as an "erectile dysfunction treatment." Still, it promoted a prescription drug, something that is not legal in the U.K. So Bayer issued an apology, which will be published by the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority.

In the U.S., where drug promotion is legal, the tweet might have run afoul of FDA, BNet figures. It mentioned the drug's use--erectile dysfunction treatment--which could be construed as an efficacy claim. And making such a claim triggers the need to disclose safety and risk info. Which brings us to the usual follow-up question: How might that litany of side effects and other caveats be communicated in a format like Twitter or Facebook or Google ads, where brevity isn't just the soul of wit, but mandatory?

Of course, the pharma and tech industries presented some ideas for solutions to FDA, which was supposed to come back with some proposed guidelines for pharma's social-media activities. No such luck yet, and no promise of delivery anytime soon.

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