Pharmaceutical companies are under no obligation to market their drugs. However, when they do advertise their medications to the public or to doctors, pharmaceutical companies have a duty to market their medications accurately and truthfully. The failure to do so can result in significant harm and be a cause of a medication injury.
Pay Special Attention to Social Media Ads
In recent years, more pharmaceutical companies have been advertising their products on Facebook and on other social media platforms.
In June 2014, the FDA issued guidance to the pharmaceutical industry about advertising prescription drugs and medical products on social media sites. The guidance was issued because, regardless of how information is provided to the public, the public deserves, “…clear, accurate, truthful, and non-misleading information.”
The burden is on the pharmaceutical company to provide that information, even if it chooses to advertise its product on social media sites and paid search result links rather than in more traditional forums. Thus, the FDA is providing two specific pieces of guidance to drug companies:
- First, the FDA says, “…no matter the Internet source used, benefit claims in product promotions should be balanced with risk information. And companies should provide a way for consumers to gain direct access to a more complete discussion of risks associated with their products.”
- Second, the FDA recommends that drug companies correct any misinformation put out by third parties on the Internet. They may do this by dedicating a section of their website to this task.
More details about the guidance is provided on the FDA website.
Of course, pharmaceutical companies have a continued duty to provide truthful and non-misleading information in any manner of advertising including not only social media sites, but also magazines, TV ads, and all other forms of marketing.
Mirena: One Example of a Drug Company’s Failure to Warn
The Mirena IUD is a form of birth control that is inserted into the body by a doctor and that can be left for up to five years. When the Mirena IUD was introduced to the U.S market in 2000, it was often promoted through Mirena parties. Volunteers would host parties in their homes or at restaurants. A nurse practitioner would introduce Mirena and read a script which included phrases such as “reconnect with ourselves and our partners” and “more likely to be more intimate.” The home party model of selling birth control gave the impression that Mirena had few risks. In fact, the nurse practitioners rarely mentioned side-effects.
The parties ended in 2009 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to Bayer saying that the script was misleading. In fact, Mirena does have serious side-effects. As of June 2013, the USDA had received more than 70,000 complaints about the device that ranged from ectopic pregnancies to injuries resulting in sterility.
What to Do If You’ve Been Hurt by a Drug Company’s Failure to Warn
If you relied on a pharmaceutical company’s misleading advertising and you were hurt by a side effect that you were not adequately warned about then you could have a legal claim to damages. You should expect, however, that the pharmaceutical company will vigorously defend itself against your claims. Thus, it is important to be prepared and to fight back with the help of a pharmaceutical class action lawyer. Please contact us today to learn more.