Pharmaceutical Companies, the FDA and Paid & Natural Search Marketing

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Pharmaceutical Companies, the FDA and Paid & Natural Search Marketing


Posted by Emily Helander, Program Manager

Given FDA guidelines, marketing for pharmaceutical companies often involves more complications.  With the growth of search marketing, the FDA has begun to bring pharmaceutical paid search campaigns under greater scrutiny.  In March 2009, 14 letters were issued to large pharmaceutical companies regarding paid search ads for various drugs omitting risk information, minimizing risk information, inadequately communicating indications, overstating efficacy and failing to use the full pharmaceutical name. 

Obviously the character limits associated with paid search advertising pose a challenge to these requirements.  In response, some pharmaceutical companies have begun using ads that do not contain any claims about the drug but are instead “reminder ads.”  These ads contain the drug’s pharmaceutical name and include phrases like “Learn More” and “Visit the Official Site.”  Similarly, some pharmaceutical companies are using un-branded ads.  These ads speak to the condition as well as learning about symptoms and treatment options, but do not mention the drug itself.  These ads contain unbranded display URLs that can either link to an unbranded site or the drug’s Web site (containing risk information) via a vanity URL.  Other options, such as a mouse over-box or interstitial page displaying risks, are being explored by the engines.

The FDA’s warning letters only addressed the paid search ads, but the next logical question is: Will the FDA begin monitoring pharmaceutical organic search results?  Currently there have been no changes to requirements from a search engine optimization standpoint.  I would venture a guess that this will most likely remain the case given that an organic search engine result is chosen by the engine’s algorithm, much different than a paid search advertisement.  

Nonetheless, hypotheses have been made as to how some of the warnings from paid search could eventually be translated to organic listings and SEO efforts:

·         Title tags could be required to be written to include both the brand and generic drug name

·         The meta descriptions could be limited as to what information could be included (i.e. indications)

Currently the FDA has not issued any warnings regarding organic results.  The pharmaceutical companies do not have direct control as to what the engines will display for these listings, making it extremely difficult for the FDA to hold the these companies to certain requirements.  At this point, we recommend pharmaceutical companies not alter their current natural search optimization efforts until the FDA takes a firm position on this matter.

Much of the information taken from:

http://www.searchmatters.net/2009/04/22/point-of-view-fda-search-guidelines/


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