Social Media and Pharma Update: "No Need to Fear Adverse Event Reporting!"

Posted in Social Media

About two years, I posted an opinion piece on BioJobBlog which argued that pharma’s reluctance to engage in social media because of fears of being swamped with adverse events (AEs) reports was little more than a red herring.

In that piece I opined “what is really at stake, is the systemic changes that would be required to transform a historically, opaque and unresponsive industry into a transparent, accountable and responsive one that would be required if it embraces social media as an integral part of its business model.” Nevertheless, two years later, there is still no FDA guidance on the use of social media in the pharmaceutical industry and while some companies have warmed up to the concept, it has not been wholly embraced by most companies.

However, there is new data that may put the “fear of being swamped by AEs reporting” argument to rest. The Pharmalot Blog reported today that a new study conducted by Visible Technologies, a social media monitoring and software firm, showed that only 0.3 percent of more than 257,000 posts about 224 different products —33 antacid over-the-counter meds, 38 over-the-counter decongestants, 10 prescription statins and 143 prescription drugs used to treat high blood pressure—mentioned an AE. For a more detailed analysis of the study please click here.

According to the Pharmalot post the study was conducted over a recent 30-day period and posts were collected from millions of social media sources including “blogs; forums; message boards; message groups; social networks, notably Facebook and LinkedIn; Twitter; regular news sites; specialized health sites, such a WebMD; and video and photo sites, such as YouTube and Flickr.” The study’s focus on statins, blood pressure medications, over-the-counter decongestants and antacids was intentional because tens of millions of persons use these products and therefore, would be more likely to comment on them at social media sites. The bottom line: the use of social media by pharma companies will not overwhelm their existing AE reporting networks nor will it require that more persons be hired. In fact, as I argued in my previous post, using social media for AE report may actually help companies better managed approved and marketed drugs as part of their FDA-required post marketing drug surveillance programs. 

At this point, I am at a loss as to why pharma has not yet embraced social media and leveraged it to their advantage like other industries. I suspect that most companies will not act until FDA issues the social media guidance it has been promising for the past two years. Sadly, it is anyone’s guess when the agency will finally issue the guidance—it has already been delayed several times over the past two years!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!


Want Up-to-Date Pharma News Coverage? Check Out These Blogs

Posted in Social Media

Over the past five years or so there has been a proliferation of blogs that cover the life sciences industry. While I visit some of them frequently, e.g., Pharmalot, EyeonFDA and PharmaLive,.

I am sure that there are others out there that may be useful. To that end, I came across a blog post on the Health and Life website that listed the top 10 essential pharma news blogs. 

#1 Pharmalot

How can we describe the value Pharmalot provides?

Visiting Pharmalot is something we do daily – we can give no blog or resource a higher compliment.  Ed Silverman has the experience to cut through the news and provide readers with the most important tidbits along with pertinent thoughts.

And for those interested in Pharma, the daily email can be quite valuable.

#2 PharmaGossip

Pharmagossip is recognized for horribly accurate, sharp and incisive analysis.  You can feel the author’s passion and concern for upholding ethical standards in almost any post.

Just don’t read before going to sleep or before discussions on whether man is inherently good or bad.

Pharmagossip is a blog that can change how you think about things while keeping up with important pharma news.

#3 In the Pipeline

What’s wrong with dioxygen difluoride and how accurate are HER2 receptor tests?

Derek Lowe does an excellent job of analyzing drugs, especially those that are in the pipeline and being developed.  He’s the kind of guy who points out flaws in a medication a month before clinical trials reveal it’s a dud.

You can wait for the news to be public knowledge.  Or you can read his blog.

#4 The IN VIVO Blog

When the FDA asks ten nephrologists to review a medication and they all decline, the In Vivo Blog catches it.  This blog is well known for accuracy, quality and overall being an extremely useful read for those trying to keep up with the fast-moving pharmaceutical industry.

Best of all, they have a good sense of humor.

#5 Pharma Marketing Blog

Pharma Marketing blog gives you the expert analysis of John Mack, a man who knows a lot about the marketing tactics Pharma companies use – and constantly learns new things and shares his insight with readers.

Is Pfizer running a bait and switch with its Facebook fan page?  Is Allegran running an inappropriate advertising campaign for Botox?

Find out about these and other issues in marketing related to pharmaceuticals by reading what John Mack has to say.

#6 Drug Discovery Opinion

For people who care about pharmaceuticals, the Drug Discovery Opinion is gold waiting to be discovered.

This blog provides analysis of the technical issues that have tremendous implications for drug discovery, efficacy and marketability.  It explains the fundamental science that drives pharmacology.

Its authors have almost unmatchable credentials. Great read and quite useful.

#7 Pharma Strategy Blog

Which Tyrosine Kinase inhibitor shows the most promise?  What’s going on with Avastin and ovarian cancer?

To get the answer to these, and other important questions, Pharma Strategy Blog is excellently informative.  To get a sense of the value of its posts consider this.

Sally Church, the blog’s author, was responsible for helping launch Gleevec. 

Her expertise and talent shows clearly in her posts.  Pharma Strategy blog is top notch and it gives readers insider knowledge.

#8 The MacGuffin

Not a blog for the light of heart, The MacGuffin is infamous for no-holds barred criticism and analysis.

They see things other people don’t.  And they deliver their thoughts in a combination of colloquial and scientific talk. They might deliver a knock-out analysis of a medication and follow up with an inappropriate photo of a celebrity.

Cocky and clever.  Make sure to check out their analysis of schizophrenia.

#9 Pharma Conduct

This blog keeps an eye on the conduct of pharmaceuticals and the healthcare business.  It is mainly written by Eric Milgram, Ph.D. who has more than 10 years of pharmaceutical experience.

It is an investigative blog that is unafraid to expose corruption.  The formal, analytical training Eric underwent to learn chemical analysis shows through in the high caliber of his posts.

#10 The Science Business

Well written, useful and insightful.  Not as willing to take risks and focus on emerging issues as some others on this list, this blog makes the list because it provides extremely high quality writing on health care issues.

Sadly, BioJobBlog did not make the list. I guess I just have to work a little harder.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!


An Update on Pharma Blogs

Posted in Social Media

Blogs first began appearing on the web about 10 years ago and most experts agree that they ignited the social media revolution. While blogs are the oldest form of social media, many pharma companies are reluctant to contribute to the content of the blogosphere. This is mainly because of perceived regulatory and legal issue and consequences. Nevertheless, a few intrepid big pharma companies have taken the social media plunge and currently maintain blogs with various formats and content.

From time to time, Mark Senak, author of the outstanding EyeonFDA blog, likes to check up on pharma to see how their social media experiments are going. In a post today, entitled “A Profile on Blogging By Pharma and FDA” he provides an update on pharma bloggers who he thinks are making a contribution to the life sciences community. The following is Mark’s assessment:

Johnson & Johnson–With JNJBTW, J&J has been blogging longer than any other pharma company with an archive going back to June 2007.  JNJBTW provides works to forge relationships with a broad spectrum of healthcare consumers by providing insights and resources for a variety of treatment related issues and profiles of company activities.  The blog haws multiple authors and accepts comments, though reviews them before posting according to the comments policy.  The blog has its own domain.

GSK–The More Than Medicine blog goes back to January 2009 and uses multiple authors to cover a wide span of subject matter that includes corporate social responsibility topics, chronic diseases, and current events. According to its comments policy, the blog allows for moderated comments. Entries can vary in terms of timing; with all three entries for October appearing on the same day.

AstraZeneca–Like JNJBTW and More Than Medicine, the AZHealthConnections blog takes a generalist approach by providing information on a broad spectrum of subject matter – some disease or condition specific in the areas of cancer and diabetes – but also including a public policy and general healthcare information. Residing in its own domain, the earliest archive is in October 2009 and the blog permits moderated comments according to its comments policy.

Lilly–The blog LillyPad is a more recent entry to the blogosphere begin in third quarter 2010, though no archive link is available on the landing page. LillyPad was started with a twitter handle as well of the same name, and more recently joined by a LillyPad YouTube channel called the Lilly Health Channel. The posting on the blog have frequent postings related to public policy and advocacy issues, though there is sometimes a posting on social responsibility or what it is like to work at the company. However, the focus on advocacy and policy issues (supporting innovation) seems to drive this effort in a very specific direction – being less generalist than other approaches. The comments policy is at the end of a post and states that comments are filtered – or moderated – by the company before posting.

Sanofi US–Here a company has taken a much more specific approach with a blog called Discuss Diabetes. The archive goes back to January 2011 and is therefore the newest entry and has the distinction on being the only disease/condition-specific target audience.  The blog, with its own domain, accepts and moderates comments. The focus is to provide information and resources regarding diabetes and resources for those who have it or are care partners, including such assets as its own mobile app for diabetics – Go Meals.

Pfizer–The Think Science Now blog on the Pfizer site has multiple authors who write to translate the science of medical research, though it lacks some of the traditional characteristics of a blog, such as an archive or commentary policy that was readily apparent. However, it is exemplary of the effort to aim at a specific audience of people rather than go broadly to the consuming public.

FDA–The FDA Transparency Blog first posted in November 2008 and was originally set to run for six months.  The purpose is to provide insight into how and why the agency comes to some of its decisions.  It does not have its own domain but is contained in the labyrinth of the FDA’s website.  The blog allows for moderated comments according to its comments policy, though I have not found that to necessarily be the case.

As you can see, there are not many pharma companies that maintain corporate blogs. Perhaps this may change after FDA releases it guidance on the use of social media in the life sciences industry. That said, it is anybody’s guess as to when that guidance will be issued; it already has been two years and there is no guidance yet!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!



Some Practical Twitter Advice for Jobseekers

Posted in Social Media

I just returned from the AAPS meeting in Washington, DC and I was very surprised to learn that many graduate students and postdocs have heard of Twitter but don’t know exactly what it is or how to use it! Because of this, I decided to write a post that offered a step-by-step approach for using Twitter as a job search tool for life scientists who may be looking for jobs. However, much to my delight, I found a recent post on the Secret of the Job Hunt website that provides a great “how to” guide on Twitter use for jobseekers. 

The post entitled How to Use Twitter to Find a Job” was written by Erin Kennedy, CPRW, CERW a certified career counselor, resume writer and blogger is a great introduction to using Twitter and she provides insightful tips on how to maximize Twitter’s potential as a job searching tool.

How to Use Twitter to Find a Job

by Erin Kennedy, CPRW, CERW 

For any newbies to social networking, it might seem unusual to use a site such as Twitter to find a job. However, many people can find the right contacts on Twitter to help them to find a job–but it can be a little complicated in 140 characters or less? When using Twitter as a job search tool, it is best to keep content as neutral and professional as possible. Remember, as with anything you write and post online, once you “tweet” it’s out there FOREVER.

The first thing to do when starting up a Twitter account is to choose your user name wisely and word your 160-character bio in such a way that it becomes more searchable, or Google-friendly. Your bio should share a little bit about your career so that when other people look up that keyword, you can gain more traffic to your profile. An avatar will also make your profile more appealing. Choose a professional portrait or a simple picture in which you’re facing the camera and you are not accompanied by anyone else.

A basic rule of thumb when it comes to using Twitter as a job-search tool is to keep content favorable to anyone who might stumble across it – your tweets should balance your work and personal life. If you are looking for a job, you can tweet about the types of jobs in which you are interested. Also, you can tweet about your hobbies or interests so that employers get an idea of what you are like outside of work.

In that same vein, keep in mind that there are many recruiters who actually look to Twitter for new hires because it gives them something of a real-world perspective of what that person is like. In an extremely competitive economy, where plenty of people are qualified for the same job, many companies look at an applicant’s personality to see whether they would be a good fit in the company’s culture. In this case, it helps to follow these recruiters for the companies in which you are interested.

On a similar note, you can connect with these recruiters and industry leaders and show them your interest in their tweets. You can either “retweet” to forward their tweets along or you can address them directly by putting the @ symbol before their user name. By keeping in touch with these people, you will have access to the latest information in your industry. Therefore, when you are called in for a job interview, you will have that extra edge over other candidates by speaking confidently about your knowledge of their field.

Like any real-world networking situation, a Twitter presence cannot be expected to build overnight. It takes time and patience; however, by connecting with the right people, you might very well find your way to your dream career. The key to a successful Twitter profile is keeping it professional with a glimpse of your personality, hobbies and interests outside of work as well.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Tweeting!!!!!!


Twitter is the Social Medium of Choice for Big Pharma And Biotech Companies

Posted in Social Media

Despite the initial pushback against social media by many pharma and biotech companies it appears that Twitter is emerging as the medium of choice for the life sciences industry. The main reasons for this trend are the 140 character world limit and the real time nature of Twitter. Unlike Facebook pages and blogs, where visitor’s comments (of any length) remain for indefinite periods of time, the information contained in tweets is minimal and their exposure time is second or minutes rather than days or months. These features allow pharma and biotech companies to more easily manage information flow and quickly implement damage control when necessary. 

Because of the growing importance of Twitter in life sciences circles, Mark Senak, the intrepid author of the EyeonFDA blog and a self-proclaimed social media enthusiast, compiled a list of well, useful pharmaceutical Twitter lists. Twitter users can subscribe to lists which are a compilation of tweets from persons who belong to the lists. For those of you who use LinkedIn, Twitter Lists are analogous to LinkedIn Groups.

Mark recommends the following lists to those who want to follow the pharmaceutical/healthcare industry

Healthcare Reporters 

Pharmaceutical Manufacturers 

Device  Manufacturers

Medical Journals

FDA Twitter Feeds.

Government Healthcare

Pharmaceutical and Biotech Jobs

To view these lists you must be a Twitter member!

Hat tip to Mark and to John Mack at the Pharma Marketing Blog for the Twitter image!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Tweeting!!!!!!!


Crowdsourcing Comes of Age For Molecular Modeling and Drug Discovery

Posted in Social Media

Crowdsourcing—using the collective talent of the Internet to solve problems—has been increasingly used to solve problems and find solutions in the computer software and electronics industry. Over the past few years, several forward-thinking life scientists had proposed the idea that crowdsourcing could possibly be used to solve the molecular structure of proteins that could be used as drug targets. To bring this possibility to reality, in 2008 a team of scientists at the University of Washington created an online, interactive, protein-folding game call Foldit that showcased the principle and properties of protein biochemistry. The thought was that Foldit and its worldwide cadre of users could be used to solve the molecular structure of certain proteins. Since 2008, over 100,000 have downloaded Foldit software and turned into a large, worldwide, multiplayer competition.

Earlier this week a group of scientists reported in the journal Nature Structure & Molecular Biology that Foldit users helped them to determine the molecular structure of a simian HIV protease that had baffled scientists for 15 years. The actual three dimensional structure of the protein that was predicted by Foldit was confirmed by X-ray crystallography. According to the paper’s authors (that included the Foldit players who helped solve the protein’s structure),

“Although much attention has recently been given to the potential of crowdsourcing and game playing, this is the first instance that we are aware of in which online gamers solved a longstanding scientific problem. These results indicate the potential for integrating video games into the real-world scientific process: the ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems.”

Crowdsourcing is a new concept that is beginning to be embraced by the life sciences community including academics as well as industrial scientists. To learn more about crowdsourcing and its use in drug discovery and design, please read an article that I wrote for LifeScienceLeader this past July.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Gaming!!!!!!!!! 


UK Regulatory Agency Considering Using Social Media for Adverse Events Reporting

Posted in Social Media

Over two years ago at the beginning of the social media/pharma debate, I proposed that social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook would be great for adverse event reporting for drugs, biologics and medical devices. At the time, the suggestion was largely ignored and relegated to the category of “unlikely to happen anytime in my lifetime.” 

Imagine my delight after reading a post on today’s Pharmalot Blog which suggested that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)—the UK equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—is considering whether to allow the public to use Twitter and Facebook to report side effects and adverse events.

According to the Pharmalot post:

"The MHRA is now “actively working on introducing other ways of reporting to make it easier and encourage more reporting,” Mick Foy, the MHRA group manager for vigilance and risk management of medicines, tells GP. “Applications for smartphones, improved web reporting forms and the use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook are being carefully considered as potential routes for reporting.”

While the MHRA is considering the use of social media, it is not clear that the agency will ultimately adopt Twitter, Facebook or other mobile applications for adverse event reporting. Like in the US, possible adverse reported in the UK must meet several criteria before they are verified and considered to be reportable adverse events. Despite potential problems and pitfalls, the fact that the MHRA is even considering social media as a means to improve adverse event reporting is laudable; considering the fact that FDA has yet to provide guidance on the use of social media in the US life sciences industry. Many companies, social media advocates and mobile app developers have been waiting for the said guidance for almost two years now.

Like it or not, social media is now part of the social fabric of today’s world. Rather than fighting its implementation, life sciences companies would use their considerable creative talent to figure out how to integrate and leverage social media (in non-promotional ways) to their benefit.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Tweeting and Following!!!!


Link Longevity

Posted in Social Media

As a blogger and an occasional Twitter user (believe me I would tweet more if I didn’t have to work for a living), I have often wondered how much of an impact that the links I post have on readers and followers. While there is little doubt that the posted links persist into perpetuity, it was not clear how long people continued to click or follow the links after they were posted. That is; until now!

According to new research by, the URL shortening service, most links shared online don’t live very long. The longevity of different links was determined by calculating the “half-life” (the point at which a link received half of its total online clicks) of links posted on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, e-mail or chat clients.  

After analyzing 1,000 popular links on, it was determined that the average half-life of a link on Twitter was 2.8 hours. Links posted to Facebook lasted slightly longer at 3.2 whereas the longevity for e-mail and chat links was 3.4 hours. Interestingly, the average half-life of YouTube links was 7.4 hours and that of news-related links was a mealy five minutes! 

The conclusion—people spend way too much time watching videos on YouTube and pay little attention to current events. Duh, like I didn’t already know that!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Link Following…..


Pharma and Social Media: Lilly Launches A YouTube Channel

Posted in Social Media

Mark Senak, author of the outstanding EyeonFDA blog, tweeted today, that Eli Lilly & Co had launched a YouTube Channel. According to a post on the company’s blog Lilly Pad, its new channel dubbed the “Lilly Health Channel” will “videos on health and wellness, employee and community outreach efforts, health innovation, Lilly programs and other non-product-branded initiatives.”

While the announcement of a launch of another pharma-sponsored YouTube channel is no longer new or novel, Eli Lilly has been trying to transform itself into a modern, social media and crowdsourcing-focused pharmaceutical company. For example, Lilly is one of only a handful of big pharma companies that sponsors its own corporate blog. Moreover, the company is a leader in using so-called crowdsourcing to discover and develop potential new drugs. It has spun off at least two ventures that utilize a crowdsourcing approach to new drug discovery. Finally, unlike most other big pharma CEOs, its chief executive John Lechleiter has been outspoken about the lack of innovation and available workforce talent in the US life sciences industry. 

Is Lilly truly the pharmaceutical company of the future? That remains to be seen! 

Until next time… 

Good Luck and Good Viewing!!!!


Twitter 101 for Job Seekers

Posted in Social Media

Forget about Facebook. The hottest social media platform on the Internet these days is Twitter the real time, 140 character microblogging service. While most people have heard of Twitter, there are still many folks out there who don’t know what it is or how to use it. Interestingly, a growing number of hiring managers and job seekers are turning to Twitter to search for fresh talent or learn about new job opportunities.

Using Twitter is very easy but potential users may be reluctant to use it simply because it is new and requires a little bit of practice.  To that end, my good friend the Recruiting Animal (@animal), a long time, professional recruiter and BlogTalk Radio personality who hosts the wildly popular the Recruiting Animal Show, did an excellent  television interview with ABC News describing how to use Twitter to find jobs.

For those of you who don’t know Animal he is a very colorful and bombastic personality. However, despite his theatrics, he is a very knowledgeable and insightful. So, listen closely to what he has to say in his video.


Until next time

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting (and Tweeting too)!!!!!!