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Search appears on FDA's radar once again

Warning letter to Florida company puts new slant on regulator's digital focus

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken a Florida nutritional supplements company to task for the way it uses search technology.

The US regulator issued a warning letter to Medical Doctors Research (MDR) in January after the company was found to have failed to comply with manufacturing regulations.

Following the FDA's July-August inspection last year, it subsequently reviewed MDR's website in October. This inspection found further infractions, this time with product marketing, but it also brought up problems with the way the website's search function worked.

Writing to MDR the FDA said: “Typing the key word 'cancer' or 'diabetes' into your product search field located on your website brings up your product lists to include Fitness tabs for Men, Longevit – E and others, implying your products are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of such diseases.”

But the products have not been licensed for these uses and are therefore considered to be 'new drugs' - meaning they can't be legally marketed without FDA approval.

To date the FDA's focus on search has appeared to start and end with 'search advertisements' - the short text ads that run alongside results - in Google.

The regulator warned 14 pharma companies in 2009 about the way they were using these ads, but little has been heard on the issue since.

Now the letter to MDR puts a new slant on the FDA's approach to search.

Many pharma sites don't even have a search function, meaning projects like Boehringer Ingelheim's HepCRefined.com should be immune from this particular problem.

But the latest FDA warning should put pharma sites that do have a search function, like Janssen's Psorisais360.com for example, on notice that this particular issue is now on the FDA's radar.

20th February 2013

From: Marketing

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