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To tweet or not to tweet: social media guidance to help pharmaceutical companies adhere to the ABPI Code of Practice


  • PMCPA has provided detailed guidance on how pharmaceutical companies should use social media.
  • Pharmaceutical companies are free to use social media but must ensure their communications and interactions are compliant with regulations.

UK pharmaceutical companies cannot advertise prescription-only medicines to the public or promote a drug before it has regulatory approval. This activity is largely self-regulated, with companies signing up and abiding by The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Code of Practice (ABPI Code). The system is long-established but has not to date addressed the use of social media by pharmaceutical companies in detail. New guidance has now been released by The Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA), who administer the ABPI Code. The PMCPA guide provides practical advice to pharmaceutical companies on how they can use social media in compliance with the ABPI Code.

The guidance includes some overarching considerations and also detailed guidance on the following social media activities:

  • linking to information within social media posts
  • mentioning of other accounts
  • hashtags and tagging
  • responding to misinformation
  • signposting vs posting/sharing/re-sharing
  • posting corporate news and announcements
  • constructing compliant social media profiles and job advertisements
  • increasing disease awareness for the public
  • providing patient support
  • advertising meetings and events
  • announcing product and pipeline milestones
  • working with social media influencers
  • promoting to health professionals and other relevant decision makers
  • recruiting clinical trial participants.

The guidance makes it clear that all material disseminated and activities carried out by a pharmaceutical company, its employees (even through personal accounts if they relate to professional matters), or any third parties acting on its behalf on any social media channel may come within the scope of the ABPI Code and is the responsibility of the pharmaceutical company. This guidance represents the first of its kind in the UK and it is hoped that it will address some of the compliance challenges that have been faced by UK pharmaceutical companies in the absence of clear and codified guidance. To learn more, why not watch the recent MedComms Networking Webinar on the subject or review the PMCPA’s resources for pharmaceutical companies?


Do you think the new guidance goes far enough to ensure pharmaceutical companies comply with the ABPI Code?

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