New FDA policy gives its staff wide latitude on social media. Could pharma freedom follow?

Tweet at will, FDA employees. One of the most liberal social media policies in the federal government now belongs to the FDA. Just last month, the FDA finally set out its own departmental policy that encourages its scientists and other employees to use "social media technologies to enhance communication, collaboration, and information exchange in support of FDA's mission to protect and promote public health."

While many would argue that the guidelines for pharma and other medical regulated products on social media outlined so far by the FDA have had a chilling effect on the industry's social media use, especially Twitter, its own FDA employee guidelines should have quite the opposite effect.

On the Union of Concerned Scientists' grading scale, the new policy earns an A, or 90 out of 100 points, which puts the FDA "near the top of the class in terms of policy quality," according to the nonprofit group. UCS points out that the FDA allows its employees to tweet personally and to use their FDA titles, something that is not always allowed by federal agencies. Employees are, however, required to use their personal emails and note that the opinions and views expressed are their own.

Gretchen Goldman

"To round out its strong policy, the FDA social media policy also specifies to whom the policy applies, which includes contractors … and includes a comprehensive list of links to relevant policies and information from within the agency and across the government. I commend the FDA for developing a strong social media policy," wrote Gretchen Goldman, the lead analyst in the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.

When asked for comment about what the ruling might mean, if anything, to FDA's future pharma social media actions, an FDA spokeswoman said, via email, "We can't speculate on any future agency actions in this area."

- see the RAPS story about the policy
- read the UCS blog post

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