Pharma, Social Media and Public Persuasion

Pharma on Facebook?


My digital copy of The Scientist, Volume 23, Issue 5, just hit my in-box.  The story that caught my attention was article on pg 19, by Kerry Grens, “Pharma on Facebook?”

For the full article go to  The Scientist, it is good read.  However  the section of the piece that I though Inconvenient Women should be thinking about, is excerpted here. We need to be aware of how Pharm’s footprint in social media venues like Facebook and Twitter could effect ‘accptance’ of a product without any of that troublesome FDA disclaimer language.

“…Richman started a wiki-page of social networking sites sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, and the list is growing (

Perhaps the most impressive site to date is Gardasil’s “Take a step against cervical cancer profile on Facebook—with more than 100,000 fans. (For comparison, American Idol‘s Facebook page has about 430,000 fans.) But the big difference between the two is that Take a step” is a one-way communicator: no comments allowed.

That is something no one in pharmaceutical marketing has quite figured out how to deal with: What if people post not just negative reviews, but adverse events, something the company is required to report to the FDA?

This puts pharmaceutical companies in an uncomfortable position, says Steve Woodruff, the president of marketing company Impactiviti, who blogged during the social networking conference. Companies could be on the wrong side of regulations if they don’t act on possible adverse event reports, “but it’s in a format where we may not be able to act on it,” he says.

Pharmaceutical companies “have to be very careful what they say, because there are agencies that will slap them with a very large ruler if the wrong things are said,” says Woodruff. The main pitfall drug companies have to avoid is allowing any misleading information to pop up on a site they sponsor.

So a pharma company could even get fined for posting information on a Twitter site that the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve about a product. (Still fresh in the industry’s collective memory is Eli Lilly’s $1.4 billion in fines after its sales representatives spread unapproved claims.)

Currently, the FDA has no guidelines explicitly addressing adverse event reports on networking sites like Facebook, and companies like Pfizer are not willing to take a chance that any networking activities could inadvertently step into foul territory.

Inconvenient Women everywhere need to be reviewing these sites regularly to see what Big Pharma is saying, to whom, to what effect.

For the full article go to  The Scientist


Author: H. Sandra Chevalier-Batik

I started the Inconvenient Woman Blog in 2007, and am the product of a long line of inconvenient women. The matriarchal line is French-Canadian, Roman Catholic, with a very feisty Irish great-grandmother thrown in for sheer bloody mindedness. I am a research analyst and author who has made her living studying technical data, and developing articles, training materials, books and web content. Tracking through statistical data, and oblique cross-references to find the relevant connections that identifies a problem, or explains a path of action, is my passion. I love clearly delineating the magic questions of knowledge: Who, What, Why, When, Where and for How Much, Paid to Whom. My life lessons: listen carefully, question with boldness, and personally verify the answers. I look at America through the appreciative eyes of an immigrant, and an amateur historian; the popular and political culture is a ceaseless fascination. I have no impressive initials after my name. I’m merely an observer and a chronicler, an inconvenient woman who asks questions, and sometimes encourages others to look at things differently.