New Social Media Guidance (UK Code) Launched By Healthcare Communications Association

20th March:  The Healthcare Communications Association (HCA) has launched a new Social Media Guidance (UK code) for Pharmaceutical Company Employees, Associated UK Agencies and their Staff. Providing a template for HCA members to establish their organisation’s own guidance for employees and associated partners, it has been produced in consultation with the Compliance Hub.

2019 saw a wide range of upheld code cases covering a number of different social media platforms. All had the same outcome regardless of the post being placed, forwarded, shared or even just liked. Important to note was that pharma employees, agency employees and even contractors were deemed to be in scope of the Code.  As part of its report into one such case (AUTH/3051/6/18 - Complainant v Alexion) the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) noted that: ‘The Panel considered that the lack of adequate UK specific social media guidance at the time of the complaint meant that Alexion had failed to maintain high standards and a breach of the Code was ruled.’

The HCA’s simple template guidance aims to help member organisations communicate to their employees what can and can’t be done on social media relating to Prescription Only Medicine (POM) within the code of practice, and why.

Mike Dixon, CEO explains: “We are in a world where our employees are used to open communications via social media, where liking and reposting are natural responses to something they see and support.  However, when it comes to pharmaceutical marketing, this can so easily lead to an inadvertent breach of the code.”  He continues: “Supporting employees’ understanding of their responsibilities, in both their work and social settings, when using social media to discuss and share health-related content can, therefore, help ensure they do not end up regretting an otherwise innocent social media action.”

“It is important for organisations working within the pharma sector to ensure they give their employees clear guidance on their personal responsibilities in using social media with health-related content,”  says Steve Gray, Managing Director, Compliance Hub. He continues: “We hope this guidance will help support this goal.”

The new Guidance is available to HCA members via the HCA website.

A slide resource, including some relevant code cases, is also available to support organisations in launching the social media guidance to their employees and business partners.

You can hear a recording of the Shared Experience meeting on 20.03.20 during which the guidance was launched via our Members Area / Virtual Events.