FDA Issues Guidance on Medical Product Marketing Language

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The FDA has released draft guidance documents for appropriate marketing communication on medical products and devices.

A great deal of material is generated in the marketing of a medical product, for dissemination across an increasingly broad range of media, including written materials, press releases, commercials (television, radio, or online), website content, and social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Messaging through these and other channels may use language in contexts other than the direct prescribing information for a product may inadvertently be misleading, misperceived, or in some way alter specific details from what is listed in the product approval labeling.

In January of 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released 2 sets of draft guidances1,2 designed to establish standards for communications about products that will parallel, at least in intent, the specific indications and claims that can be made in product labeling. The FDA will consider electronic or written queries and comments submitted before April 19, 2017 to the final guidance documents to be completed.

The first document titled “Medical Product Communications That Are Consistent With FDA-Required Labeling — Questions and Answers”1 is aimed at general promotional and marketing communications used by the manufacturing industry. The second, targeting communications prepared for decision-making bodies, is titled “Drug and Device Manufacturer Communications With Payers, Formulary Committees, and Similar Entities — Questions and Answers.”2

The intended audiences for both documents are drug, biological product, and device manufacturers, including packers and distributors and all their representatives, with specific attention paid to promotional and marketing materials and communications they may create and disseminate.

Medical Product Communications Consistent With FDA-Required Labeling

This Q&A document clarifies the main tenets of FDA objectives, that all communications about a product adhere to standards already determined for drug and device safety for human use, and that they do so in a manner consistent with FDA-labeling for that product. The guidance spells out 3 factors the FDA will use to determine consistency of communications in comparison to labeling:

(1) Language and information used to convey all conditions of approved use, including indication(s); patient population; limitations and directions for the handling, preparation, and application of product; and specific dosing and routes of administration approved;

(2) Potential for increased harm caused by representations or suggestions made in communications compared to labeling; and

(3) Whether communications accurately represent the conditions under which the product can be safely and effectively used.

The guidance document specifically states that communications cannot be used to provide evidence to expand the intended use for a product, even if it consistent with FDA labeling.

An article published in the National Law Review3 explains that even following the rules of consistency “is not enough to avoid enforcement action.”

Recommended methods to avoid “misleading” communications focus on both the need to accurately depict study results, data, information, and disclosing unfavorable or inconsistent findings in clinical trials reported in labeling. The guidance documents also focus on intention and context, suggesting that all information and data relevant to full perception of the context should be included.

Drug and Device Manufacturer Communications With Payors, Formulary Committees, and Similar Entities

In recognition of circumstances in which manufacturers and developers may communicate with decision-making entities regarding access and value of their products, the FDA provided a second Q&A document to clarify expectations of propriety. The guidance notes that “FDA is aware that payors seek a range of information on effectiveness, safety, and cost-effectiveness of approved drugs, including information from firms to help support their drug selection, formulary management, and/or coverage and reimbursement on a population basis. This information may differ from and be in addition to the information the FDA reviews in order to make drug approval decisions.”