In April the FDA sent formal letters to a number of pharma companies warning them of their misleading paid search ads in Google. Essentially the FDA wants pharma brands to put their full name of their product and associated risks in the ad. The problem as stated by pharma companies is that these paid search ads in search engines are only 95 characters in length and there isn’t enough space to include the name and the risks, not to mention the benefits.
If you’ve been following the subsequent online discussion about these FDA letters, you’ll see that much of the debate is centered around the idea that the FDA suggestions may be making things more confusing for the consumer rather than helping them. Although there is the potential for the FDA to drive some unintended, consequences, it seems to me that there is some common sense interpretations of the FDA suggestions that are the right thing to do for all parties.
The unintended consequence most mentioned, is that forcing further requirements on pharma companies has reduced participation from them and thus opened the door for Canadian online pharmacies and natural supplements. If you do a drug search today, you’ll see this is already happening. (Side note: Google has a fairly responsive protocol for a brand to file trademark paperwork to stop other brands from using their trademark.)