As the telemedicine industry continues to grow, especially in light of COVID-19, businesses should reconsider their policies and procedures in connection with telehealth services and user safety.

Notably, Facebook recently responded to the growing use of telemedicine by amending its policies with respect to advertisements by telemedicine companies for prescription drugs. The new policy, which according to Facebook is intended to ban the promotion of illicit drugs and unsafe substances, goes into effect on August 25, 2021.

In addition to requiring healthcare-related ads to comply with all applicable laws and regulations, the new policy implements additional pre-approval requirements specific to telehealth providers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and online pharmacies seeking to promote the sale of prescription drugs via Facebook ads. Under the new policy, telehealth providers and online pharmacies must obtain and provide written certification from Legitscript, a third party certification provider. Pharmaceutical manufacturers must obtain pre-approval from Facebook directly prior to running ads for prescription drugs. Accordingly, with this new policy only:

  1. pre-approved online pharmacies,
  2. telehealth providers, and
  3. pharmaceutical manufacturers

are permitted to use Facebook’s platform to advertise prescription drugs, provided that the foregoing pre-approval requirements are satisfied.

In addition, any pre-approved ads for prescription drugs can only target users who are at least eighteen years old and who reside in either the US, Canada or New Zealand.

Other platforms are likely to follow Facebook’s lead; thus, telemedicine companies should periodically review the policies of all social media platforms that they use to engage with consumers and ensure their marketing plans remain in compliance with respective policies.