Last week, social media platform Twitter doubled the possible length of a tweet from 140 characters to 280.
While the change, intended to attract new users and increase growth, brought criticism from some ardent tweeters, it could bring around guidance changes for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The regulator has a series of guidelines focused on advertising and product promotion among drugmakers, and a 2014 draft guidance specifically focuses on a firm’s policy with regards to character limitation on social media platforms.
Titled ‘Internet/Social Media Platforms with Character Space Limitations – Presenting Risk and Benefit Information for Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices,’ the guidance aims to ensure “truthful, accurate, non-misleading, and balanced product promotion” online, regardless of limitations.
Examples given in the guidance are based on Twitter’s original 140 character limitation, but the Agency says is fully aware of the change in the social media platform.
“FDA is considering all stakeholder comments received to the dockets for the draft guidances related to social media and actively continues to review, analyse, and develop approaches to a variety of topics related to the labeling and advertising of medical products,” an FDA spokesperson told this publication.
“Regardless of character space constraints that may be present on certain Internet/social media platforms, if a firm chooses to make a product benefit claim, the firm should also incorporate risk information within the same character-space-limited communication.”
Therefore, with double the characters the changes could now provide pharma companies looking to promote a product with enough space to “enable meaningful presentations of both benefit and risk,” as the guidance says.
But a cursory glance across a number of Big Pharma Twitter accounts over the past week – @pfizer, @Novartis, @Roche, @GileadSciences, @bmsnews, @JanssenUS and others – shows little evidence of industry taking advantage of the character change.
However, Eli Lilly (@LillyPad) did use 270 characters to publicise the opening of an immuno-oncology R&D center in New York City earlier this week: