This post was also written by Paul Sheives.

Following a decade-long hiatus, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) appears ready to finally address industry Internet communications. FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (“CDER”) in collaboration with other divisions within FDA, held a two-day hearing on November 12th and 13th to help the Agency determine how the statutory provisions, regulations, and policies governing advertising and promotional labeling should be applied to product-related information on the Internet and emerging technologies.

Much has changed since 1996, the last time FDA held a public hearing on this topic. The Internet is now widely used as a medium for companies to disseminate information about their products, and the Internet’s ability to facilitate communication and collaboration has substantially evolved over the last few years primarily as a result of a second (Web 2.0) and now third (Web 3.0) generation of Internet development and website design. The inherent flexibility and intelligence of Web 2.0 and 3.0 is great for society, but also fraught with risk for an FDA-regulated industry that must carefully control its interactions with consumers and health care practitioners. Indeed, the industry has largely avoided using Web 2.0 out of fear that any social media use may result in FDA enforcement action.

Given the above, it is not surprising that FDA’s hearing was a welcome relief to many. Even though the hearing technically was only an information gathering exercise for FDA, it was an important opportunity for industry leaders and stakeholders to contribute to FDA’s emerging Internet policy. This Client Alert provides a brief summary of the major themes and recommendations from the presenters at the hearing.

In addition, please see a related commentary on the blog Adlaw by Request (“FDA Seeks To Understand Social Media”). Adlaw by Request is a blog designed to provide regular news on advertising law developments in the United States and elsewhere, with practical commentary and analysis from Reed Smith’s Advertising, Technology and Media (ATM) practice.