Law and order on the social media frontier

The New England Journal of Medicine is weighing in on social media. Two researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital are worried that the social media frontier--where drugmakers Tweet, post and otherwise share--could develop a free-for-all atmosphere like the Old West. But they have some ideas for keeping the peace.

Namely, social media needs multiple sheriffs to maintain law and order, say authors Jeremy Greene and Aaron Kesselheim. First, the Wall Street Journal reports, some researchers--including those not funded by drugmakers--need to study the impact of online pharma marketing on public health. Second, financial ties between social media providers and pharma companies need to be disclosed explicitly. Third, physicians and consumers need to wear their own deputy-sheriff badges to "hold the FDA and pharmaceutical manufacturers responsible for maintaining credible information ... regarding the benefits and risks" of pharma products.

Of course, these recommendations are just a few among the many advanced to the FDA as the agency designs new rules for online drug marketing and social media use. That set of guidelines was supposed to be issued by the end of this year, but that deadline is fast approaching. If FDA does come through with those rules, there's sure to be plenty of ongoing debate.

- read the WSJ Health Blog post