The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate the online marketing and behavioral targeting practices of pharmaceutical companies.
The CDD says few U.S. health consumers are aware they are being identified, labeled, profiled, and tracked on the Internet while they search or access information on specific conditions or concerns.
"The health and safety of U.S. consumers must be protected from inappropriate and potentially harmful use of digital marketing applications that have been embraced by pharmaceutical and health marketers," said Jeff Chester, Executive Director, CDD.
"It is essential that the FDA craft regulatory safeguards for Internet-related promotion, especially since interactive communications will become the dominant form for the delivery of health information and advertising to both consumers and health professionals."
The CDD asked the FDA to work with the Federal Trade Commission and other agencies to develop a set of policies for regulating the use of behavioral targeting and data collection in the marketing of drugs and health-related products.
The FDA held two days of hearings last November on the role of the Internet and marketing for regulated drugs. Chester said at those hearings, "pharmaceutical marketers purposely painted a sanitized, storybook image of social media marketing."
"Direct-to-Consumer Digital Marketing of pharmaceutical and health-related products requires the FDA to re-evaluate its standards for advertising practices, including what should be considered as truthful and non-misleading," he said.