The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a warning letter to Vibrant Life, stating that claims made on Vibrant Life’s Facebook page and its other websites violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). In its warning letter, the FDA cites a number of improper claims made by the company regarding the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease that have not been approved by the FDA, including several claims on the company’s Facebook page for treatment of gout and angina. The warning letters continues the FDA’s recent trend of sending warning letters related to Facebook.
The FDA also stated that consumer testimonials on the company’s websites were evidence of intended use. Additionally, the FDA raised concern that the company was using metatags in internet search engines to increase traffic to its websites. For example, one of Vibrant Life’s websites used “heart disease, heart attack, fight heart disease” as metatags, while another website used “arthritis…arthritis pain….osteoarthritis…arthritis inflammation…cartilage degeneration, rheumatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis…”.
Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers should be aware of FDA warning letters like this one because they provide insight into current FDA enforcement activity related to social media. This is critical since FDA draft guidance regarding social media has not yet been finalized. Manufacturers should review their Facebook page and websites to determine whether appropriate claims are being made. If testimonials are being used on a company’s website, manufacturers should consider whether they are appropriate based on the product’s approved indication(s). Further, manufacturers should ensure that metatags are reviewed and approved by the relevant review committees to ensure that internet search engines are not directing inappropriate internet traffic to the company’s websites.