The FDA sent warning letters to three companies making claims on social media platforms that their products are possible treatments and cures for the Ebola virus. This marks the first time that the FDA has taken notice of claims made on Pinterest.

Social media platforms, and the Internet as a whole, are unlocking new engagement opportunities for drug and device manufacturers with consumers and healthcare professionals, and as a result the FDA has stepped in and released draft guidance for the industry, “Internet/Social Media Platforms With Character Space Limitations: Presenting Risk and Benefit Information for Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices.” The guidance, which saw its comment period extended to Oct. 29, 2014, addresses how manufacturers, packers and distributors of drugs and medical devices should present benefit and risk information within the advertising and promotion of their FDA-regulated products on these digital platforms, since companies are limited when it comes to the number of character spaces they can use within these information venues.

On Sept. 24, 2014, the FDA sent letters to three companies, relating to their marketing of products touted as possible treatments or cures for Ebola; this was prompted by the reality that there are currently no approved treatments, cures or vaccines for the disease. The letters document multiple claims from the companies, Natural Solutions FoundationYoung Living and dōTERRA International, or their paid representatives, that their products, such as “CBD Organic Dark Chocolate Bars,” “Clary Sage” essential oils and the “Family Protection Pack,” can treat, cure or prevent the virus — claims which can only be made by FDA-approved drugs. The promotions appeared on Pinterest, Facebook and blog posts.

This marks the first time the FDA has targeted a company for its use of Pinterest. The FDA has long included references in its warning letters to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, going as far as to consider that Facebook “likes” could be construed as promotional claims. Despite the agency’s release of its guidance on social media, it had yet to make any mention of the Pinterest platform.