News & Views
The downside to influencer marketing

Kim Kardashian is the spokesperson of most brands’ dreams — but one of her recent endorsements got her in trouble with the FDA. Kardashian had partnered with Duchesnay, Inc. to promote morning sickness drug Diclegis, but her Instagram ad for the product was criticised severely by the FDA for neglecting to inform her followers of the drug’s side effects. The organisation called her ad “false and misleading” and said it “omits material facts.”

The original post reads: “I felt a lot better and most importantly, it’s been studied and there was no increased risk to the baby.” Kardashian has since deleted this content, and uploaded a much longer post which goes into detail regarding instructions for use and potential side effects.

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“I guess you saw the attention my last #morningsickness post received,” she says. “The FDA has told Duchesnay, Inc., that my last post about Diclegis (docylamine succinate and pyridoxine HCI) was incomplete because it did not include any risk information or important limitations or use for Diclegis.” She states that her original post included a link which would have directed readers to the relevant information, but acknowledges that this did not meet FDA requirements.

Lawyer Kevin Madogan raises the question of whether Kardashian or one of her team will be required to sift through the thousands of comments on her post, to ensure that no off-label claims are being made about Diclegis. “ What you would do is the spokesperson would be required to say that is an off-label statement, the product is not indicated for that use, and please see the full prescribing information,” he tells The Washington Post.

As a paid spokesperson, Kardashian is required to fulfill the same disclaimer rules regarding Diclegis on her Instagram account as any TV advertisement. “But even otherwise, Kardashian is a social media powerhouse: if she were to promote a drug without being paid to do so, millions of people would still see the post due to her sheer reach,” writes Neal Ungerleider at Fast Company. “Would the FDA have the right to police posts like that if they’re by influential figures on social media?” He points out that other social platforms, like Facebook, tend to largely avoid allowing drug companies to advertise to their users, presumably to avoid situations just like this.

Herein lies the disadvantage to working with an A-list brand ambassador like Kim Kardashian. Her 44.8 million Instagram followers guarantee that your message will be heard by a large audience, but this heightened visibility also means that all parties must tread incredibly carefully — especially when the product you’re selling is a pharmaceutical.

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