Pharma Social MediaIt’s clear that social media has gained widespread popularity amongst the consumer-oriented Fortune 500 crowd. But how about pharmaceutical, biotechnology and devices/diagnostic companies? By and large, they have been reluctant to participate in the social web, instead sticking closely to a Web 1.0 model. That’s the point made in a recent Life Science Leader article by Cliff Mintz:

Indeed, only a handful of life sciences companies have decided to take the social media plunge, claims Jonathan Richman, director of business development at Bridge Worldwide Inc. and author of the popular “Dose of Digital” blog, which tracks social media usage by life sciences and healthcare companies.

According to Richman, there are only a handful of drug companies on Facebook (the largest social networking website, which recently surpassed 350 million registered users) and the popular video sharing site YouTube, which is owned by Google. Likewise, only a small number of companies have created accounts on Twitter — the highly touted microblogging platform that is expected to surpass 18 million registered users by year’s end. Finally, only a smattering of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, including Johnson and Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, and GE Healthcare, run and maintain blogs — one of the earliest forms of social media. This is remarkable considering that Technorati, a company that tracks blog creation and blogging habits, determined that in 2008 there were over 25 million blogs in the United States, which were visited by more than 77 million viewers!

The industry’s reluctance to engage in social media puzzles John Mack, a veteran pharmaceutical consultant, blogger, and social media enthusiast who publishes the influential Pharma Marketing News newsletter and the Pharma Marketing blog. “Social media has drastically changed the way people communicate over the Internet. It is a two-way dialog that makes discussions and the exchange of information available to masses of people who previously may not have had access,” he said. The industry needs to better understand its benefits and get into the game, Mack added. Analtech’s Grant asserts that life sciences companies have to come to terms with the fact that conversations about them are already taking place online whether or not they are aware of them. “Companies should understand that they must monitor social media channels to better understand what their customers and stakeholders are saying and what they need or want,” he said.

The Life Science Leader article highlights a few reasons why life sciences and pharma companies may be hesitant to develop a social media presence:

  • In recent years, the FDA’s Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications (DDMAC), which regulates marketing and advertising practices of pharmaceutical, biotechnology and devices companies, has penalized an increasing number of companies Buy Viagra Online Without Prescription for misleading promotional activities. It’s possible that drug and device manufacturers worry that social media activities with no official guidelines in place could lead to additional penalties.
  • Companies are required by law to report all adverse events and side effects of marketed drugs and devices to the FDA. Some may fear that social media would allow disgruntled consumers to post false claims to the web, which could lead to a host of FDA investigations.
  • Because of recent drug recalls, product safety issues and layoffs, many may fear that the American public’s confidence and trust in the health care and pharma industry is at historical lows.

To learn more, read the entire Life Science Leader article.

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