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!!!!!!!