She makes headlines for everything from her wardrobe choices to her celebrity marriage. Kim Kardashian, reality TV star and socialite, is now making different headlines: She may be in hot water with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
To recap, Kardashian, who is pregnant, published a social media post on Facebook and Instagram about the benefits of Diclegis, a drug used to treat morning sickness. The post read:
“I tried changing things about my lifestyle, like my diet, but nothing helped, so I talked to my doctor. He prescribed me #Diclegis, and I felt a lot better and most importantly, it’s been studied and there was no increased risk to the baby.”
It’s not unusual for celebrities to endorse prescription medications. However, the FDA claims her posts are in violation of federal drug-promotion rules. These rules state that the side effects of the drug must be included. Diclegis comes with a warning that it should not be used with alcohol, certain pain relievers, or medications that cause drowsiness. The FDA did not consider Kardashian’s link to the pharmaceutical company’s website sufficient.
Social Media In The Medical Field
This incident highlights three important points to consider when working with social media in the medical field.
1. Higher standards, higher stakes
Medical information, particularly endorsements, are held to a more rigorous standard than other products. Kardashian did volunteer the information and linked back to the manufacturer’s website; however, the FDA says warnings should always be included, even if space is limited (something to think about when composing a Tweet with 142-word limit).
2. Be familiar with privacy and promotional laws, seeking professional advice when needed
If you forwarded or shared Kardashian’s information, it could be considered a HIPAA violation, or shaky ground at best. HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. In short, it protects your confidential medical information and limits access to who can view this information.
According to Hive Strategies, a firm that specializes in HIPAA compliance, while you are not liable for someone posting private medical information on a site you host, by sharing it, tweeting it, or forwarding it, you are giving it “new life.” At best, it’s a gray area when it comes to HIPAA law.
In short, Kardashian may volunteer medical information, but that doesn’t mean you’re free to share it with your network.
3. When in doubt, play it safe
Regardless of whether or not you violated FDA or HIPAA rules, proving your innocence—or responding to warning letters—takes time and money. Why work within a “gray area” if there is the slightest potential of litigation?
Social media is a valuable tool for marketing your medical practice or health equipment. However, be aware that when it comes to medicine and patient privacy, it is vital to understand the more stringent regulations that come with the territory.