Celebrity Endorsement and FDA: An Unwinnable Battle for the Agency
[Posted on: Monday, August 20, 2015]
Kim Kardashian tweets about a morning sickness drug and the world goes crazy. By this time, if you have not heard about it, you may be the only one in the world. But this is not the first time celebrity endorsements have been used by companies to make misleading claims. Celebrities are used to sell all kinds of consumer goods so why not drugs. And FDA does not prohibit using key figures to endorse a given drug product; we have seen Phil Mickelson’s Embrel campaign, Bob Dole’s Viagra campaign, and many other famous people endorsing drugs with no issues from FDA. But when these ads are used to mislead and deceive, they become an issue. But despite FDA’s warning letters and other actions, these misleading campaigns abound. In the case of Ms Kardashian’s tweet, it was shared with her more than 42 million Twitter followers, liked about 450,000 times and lead to more than 500% uptick in the buzz about the drug. By all accounts the company in question won big time. More importantly, we are all talking about the drug and its manufacturer for the last month giving the company a very successful marketing campaign. FDA just cannot win; Dr. Oz keeps promoting dubious weight loss supplements, Larry King his Omega XL, and the list goes on. Before FDA finds out and clamps down on a given misleading ad, the companies making such ads have long harvested the financial benefits and quickly move to new targets. US is the only developed nation to allow direct to consumer drug ads and we are fast moving into social media campaigns that have much larger impact that previous mass media campaigns. We need to train on social media management strategies to control and benefit from the information explosions.
Expert Opinion: Mukesh Kumar
VP, RA, Amarex Clinical Research