FDA and Social Media: Much Ado About Nothing

Posted in Social Media, Uncategorized

Since the inception of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms, many life sciences companies, mainly big pharma, have been anxiously awaiting regulatory guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration on how to use them. Interestingly, FDA did issue some guidance in 2012 on it use last year but many drugmakers felt that it was insufficient and not detailed enough.  Despite the lack of clearly defined regulatory guidance, many companies took the social media plunge anyway. And according to a recent survey of regulatory actions and letters conducted by Mark Senak author of the fabulous EyeonFDA Blog the agency has done very little to thwart the social media strategies implemented by drug companies. In fact, there has been no obvious increase in the number of warning letters or violation letters regarding the use of digital or social media as compared with traditional media violations.

Senak drew this conclusion after analyzing 173 warning and notice of violation letters (advertising and media related) that were issued by the agency from 2008 to 2012.  Of the 173 regulatory letters that were issued, 675 violations were cited and only 43% involved digital media.  And, for the most part, most of the cited violation had little to do with the digital or social media vehicle used but more to do with the message being delivered. For the full report click here.

What does this all mean? While it is difficult to draw any firm conclusion, I believe that the bottom line is that the importance and significant of the long awaited FDA guidance on the use of social media has been overstated. Put simply, if you follow the existing rules guiding advertising and print media, companies ought to be able to craft a regulatory-compliant social media communication strategy without the fear of running afoul of the agency.  Those who violate the existing rules will likely be caught and have to clean up their acts.

The bottom line. Many drug companies have been able to mount very effective social media campaigns without getting into trouble with FDA.  The key to success is following the rules and implementing a digital/social media campaign that has passed internal regulatory muster to insure that everything is in order and regulatory compliant. Companies that have made the investment into digital/social media will be successful whereas others that jump into the game without taking the time to understand the rules of engagement will fail.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!



Facebook Reaches 500 Million Users but Pharma Continues to be Slow to React

Posted in Social Media

An article in today’s New York Times business section loudly proclaimed that the number of people using Facebook had topped 500 million. Further, according to the article: “The company has grown at a meteoric pace, doubling in size from a year ago and each month, more than 30 billion photographs, links to Web sites and news articles are shared through the site, and its members spend roughly 700 billion minutes there.”  

While these statistics are mind boggling and represent an incredible business opportunity for any company, life sciences companies including most major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have largely shunned Facebook. In a post earlier this week on EyeonFDA, its author, Mark Senak rightly noted that:

 “When social media began to ebb from a media pathway for individuals to connect, to one where institutions and industry began to employ social media as a means of communicating with their constituencies Facebook has become an extremely important referral source - a driver of traffic – to Web pages.” Despite this, “the pharmaceutical industry, as a highly regulated industry, has lagged behind other sectors.”

The reasons for pharma’s reluctance to use social media to engage stakeholders are numerous. The most common ones offered include the lack of regulations guiding the use of social media and its possible effects on adverse event reporting for approved medicines. However, the lack of regulatory guidance and consequences for adverse event reporting didn’t prevent life sciences companies from building branded product websites, sponsoring patient communities or investing in social networks for physicians. Therefore, it is unlikely that the lack of regulatory guidance and fears of overwhelming adverse event reporting aren’t responsible for pharma’s reluctance to embrace social media. I suspect that the real reasons may have more to do with increasing transparency surrounding clinical testing, drug approvals and drug pricing and reimbursement. But, I digress….

Interestingly, despite the lack of regulatory guidance and concerns over adverse event reporting, some pharmaceutical companies have chosen to boldly go where no other life sciences companies have gone before on Facebook.  According to Mark, the following companies have created corporate or disease/cause-related fan pages on Facebook:

  1. Labs Are Vital sponsored by Abbott Laboratories
  2. AstraZeneca US Community Connections
  3. AstraZenecaCareers
  4. Bayer Karriere
  5. Bayer Sustainability
  6. Johnson & Johnson Network
  7. Nursing Notes by Johnson & Johnson
  8. Pfizer

While the number of person who are fans of these pages are minute (as compared with the total number of Facebook users) they likely represent highly committed and focused groups of user—any pharmaceutical marketer’s dream! Although Facebook still subscribes to the notion that “bigger is better, niche networking and social media sites are growing in popularity. This is because these sites may give marketers and advertisers a “bigger bang for their buck” as compared with larger, more unfocused and disparate user communities. In other words, penetration and uptake rates are likely to greater in focused niche populations as compared with the general population at large.

I have long contended that social media tools can be used for other than promotional purposes in the life sciences industry. To that end, the use of social media for clinical trial patient recruitment and retention is rapidly expanding and there are signs that pharmaceutical companies have finally recognized the power of social media for recruiting purposes e.g. AstraZenecaCareers .  

I have no doubt that the life science industry will eventually recognize the utility power of social media. It is no longer a question of “if” but rather ‘when” for social media and the life sciences industry?

Until next time…

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


YouTube and Pharma: An Update

Posted in BioBusiness

There is no question that video is taking the Internet by storm and is quickly replacing the written word as a means of communication. Despite the obvious business opportunities offered by videos, most big pharma companies have failed to jump on the video bandwagon. As always, there are exceptions to the status quo and a handful of life sciences companies most notably Johnson & Johnson, have been experimenting with video over the past few years.

According to Mark Senak, the unofficial life sciences company video archivist and author of the always insightful EyeonFDA blog, there are presently about 15 companies that have channels on YouTube; the largest video sharing website on the Internet. Previously, Mark was able to find 10 or so active companies on the YouTube website. Despite this modest increase, Mark notes that most pharma YouTube channels are not regularly maintained and suffer from lack of original content. 

There is no question that video is expensive to make if it is done commercially. However, Ken Grant at Analtech, a small chromatography company in Delaware, who has successfully used video to drive and improve business outcomes, contends that a low cost Flip video camera or equivalent is sufficient to get the job done! 

I suspect that big pharma may be waiting for FDA to weigh in on the use of social media for promotional purposes before it allocates any resources for video production. However, as I have stated many times before, social media can be used in many other ways (besides for promotional purposes) to meet business objectives and maintain corporate brand integrity. Until pharma marketers and brand managers recognize this, social media and pharma will be a moot point.

Until next time…

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


50 Useful Science Career Sites

Posted in BioJobBuzz

Samantha Miller of the Medical Small Business blog sent me a list of 50 websites that may be useful for students interested in a career in science or scientists looking for jobs. The list is very comprehensive and worth a look for folks who, against all odds, are still considering careers or seeking gainful employment in the sciences.

 Science Job Sites

1. New Scientist Jobs : Register for free here to begin uploading your CV, get job alerts, and apply for them online. You can also search the database which has tons of jobs in science. There are also useful items such as career advice and who’s recruiting.

2. Nature Jobs : This science site stands out for its ability to let you search for jobs overseas. You can also search by employer, discipline, and title. There is also a career toolkit and information on fairs.

3. Job Science : If you feel like spending a little money to find a job, check out this site. It has loads of resources for science workers and students to find a job. You can view a demo, or try it out for free for 30 days.

4. Career Builder : A leading career site, it also has a special section for science and biotech jobs. You can search by type and/or location. There are also tons of other useful tools on Career Builder.

5. The Vault : With useful resources such as the top 25 firms, this site is worth a look. Here, you can choose from different science industries such as biotechnology, environment, and technology. They also have loads of blogs, videos, and much more.

6. Research Jobs : If your scientific expertise is in research, click here. This is a networking and job site dedicated to researchers and companies in the industry. You can register, search jobs, and more.

7. Career Cast : Although anyone in any profession can utilize this site, science workers can view jobs in life, physical, or social sciences. There are also tools, news, a blog, and more. They recently listed biologist as the top number four job in the nation and you can read why.

8. Glassdoor : Thinking of working for a specific company? Then visit here to see what actual employees have to say about it. You can also get salary, bonus, and other important information.

9. Dice : If technology is your area of scientific expertise, visit here. The site is a career hub for tech insiders and lets you browse jobs in the hottest cities for technology. You can also upload your resume, search agencies, get tips for resume writing, and more.

10. ChemJobs.net : If you are looking for a job in the chemistry industry, visit here. Categories include graduate, sales, clinical, and more. There is also a directory and more information.

11. Photonics Jobs : This science site is for those looking for work in optical, laser, and fiber optics employment. The latest jobs are featured on the homepage. You can also search by date or category.

12. Working for NASA : You don’t have to live in Texas or Florida to work for this science giant. They have thirteen facilities in states such as California, Ohio, and D.C. See what jobs are open and what they are looking for by visiting.

13. Engineer.info : This site searches through millions of jobs from many leaders to bring you solely jobs for engineers. With everything from entry level to advanced, this site is a one stop shop for engineers looking for a career. You can also search by type or location.

14. Think Resources : Get several sites for scientists looking to go into the energy field here. There is Energy Group, Power Plant Jobs, and others. There is also help with resumes and employment management services.

15. Just Windows Jobs : If you have knowledge of MS, developing, or related field, this is the science job site for you. It contains jobs featuring solely IT’s best in Windows. With over 15 million users getting jobs from 120 tech websites, it is a good choice.

16. Computer Jobs: Like the above, this science job site is for technology professionals. Choose jobs requiring skills such as Python, Cisco, Java, and many others. You can also do a simple Google like search.

17. Med Hunting : Get science jobs for the medical field by visiting here. Science orientated jobs include research, technology, and others. You can also post your resume or get salary information.

Career Development Sites

These sites can be used to help write a resume, prepare for an interview, and much more.

18. My Science Career : Provided by AAAS and the journal “Science,” get tons of tools specifically for science workers and students seeking a career. There is a how-to series with loads of advice, along with the other usual tools. You can also download “The Informed Job Search.”

19. Career One Stop : Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, the site provides tools to help job seekers, students, and all professionals. Choose from exploring careers, education, or even find services near you. There is also help for those in the military making the transition to civilian life.

20. Monster : This gigantic career site is full of advice for workers, students, and everyone in between. Choose from helpful resources such as resumes, interviewing, and negotiating salary. They also feature employers and have regular interviews with industry professionals.

21. WSJ Careers : Although meant for business professionals, the scientist can still get expert advice from “The Wall Street Journal.” They have news & trends, career strategies, columns on different careers, and the usual job search. You can also get information on different schools.

22. Free Resume Critique : If the first word of the title didn’t sell you the provider will: “The Wall Street Journal.” Simply enter your information and upload your resume to get started. If you choose to go with their services, they guarantee an interview within 30 days.

23. Career Mag : In addition to the usual tools, there is also a self-assessment section that most others don’t have. Other tools are on continuing education, an online portfolio, and reputation defender. There is even a mobile app with more.

24. The Riley Guide : In operation since 1994, they offer free career advice and employment information. Choose from subjects such as tips on the job search, cover letters, salary guides, and more.

25. Interview Smart : Is the interview the scariest part of getting a science career or into the school of your dreams? Then stop by this site to sharpen your skills and ace the interview. There is a free trial and they feature 35 different topics on every step of the process.

Science Majors and Post Baccalaureate Sites

Science students can use these sites to find an internship, entry level job, and more.

26. College Grad : Stop here to get jobs specifically for college graduates. You can find jobs in a variety of fields, including science. There is also help for paying off debts, top employers, videos, and more.

27. Campus Career Center : Stop here for a massive site with entry level jobs and internships specifically for both college students and graduates. They have an expert blog with tips on everything from resume building to advancing an existing career. Best of all, employers such as Shell, the CIA, and many others regularly hire from here.

28. College Center : Get a network just for college job seekers here. They have centers for students, alumni, and employers. There is also a job search kit to give you more help.

29. After College : Search over 200,000 jobs specifically for college graduates here. Popular jobs include teaching, pharmacy, imaging, and others. There is also help for scholarships.

30. Monster College : With a section for just about everything, Monster also has this resource to help you transition from the classroom to the workplace. You can learn, network, and share on the one site. There is also help with portfolios and finance.

31. Entry Level Jobs : Choose the scientific category here to get entry level jobs. You can also choose by locations across the country. Other categories include education, engineering, technology, and more.

32. Employment Guide : If you are a science student who needs to work from home, visit here. They have listings of legitimate business opportunities at many levels. There are also tools for other job seekers.

33. Diversity Working : If you are a science student and a minority, stop here. It offers over 500,000 jobs in diversity. Simply post your resume, choose from a community, or search for your dream job.

34. College Recruiter : If you need just a simple search engine for entry level jobs and internships, this is it. Simply type what and where to get your answer.

Science News

Don’t get scooped by a co-worker or other student by staying on top of the latest scientific breakthroughs.

35. Science Daily : Get nothing but science headlines by stopping here. They are updated every 90 minutes and include just about every topic imaginable. You can also choose by specialty, news videos, and book reviews.

36. Live Science : With sections like Cool Science and Tech News You Can Use, this site is worth a visit. You can also choose by specific topic or even the strangest in headlines. Be sure not to miss the videos with even more.

37. New Scientist : Stop here for in-depth articles for the serious scientist. They also offer the Last Word and opinions on many controversial scientific topics. You can also use the site to look for science jobs.

38. Scientific American : You don’t need a subscription to this leading publication to get science news. Online sections include fact vs. fiction, extreme tech, and ask the experts. Be sure not to miss the 60 Second Science Podcasts with loads more.

39. Science Blogs : Similar to Alltop, this site gathers all the headlines from science blogs onto one convenient place. Choose from life science, environment, medicine, and more. There is also a section for job seekers.

40. POPSCI : Also known as “Popular Science,” they cover gadgets and cars in addition to science. Get the latest on robots and other popular pieces of science with a visit. There are also galleries and videos.

41. Science Mag : Both scientific research and career information is listed here. There is also a community for networking and blogs. You can also get a science podcast.

42. EurekAlert! : Get the latest news by scientific subject here. Choose subjects from agriculture to technology. There is also information on grants, awards, and books.

Science Reference Sites

Whether writing a paper, report, or other scientific issue, use these sites as references and tools for the latest in science.

43. National Science Foundation : The NSF is a must visit site for all science students and workers. You can get the latest discoveries, info on awards, and statistics. You can also use the site to find funding opportunities in your area.

44. Research.gov : Led by the NSF, Research.gov is a partnership of federal research-oriented grant making agencies with a shared vision of increasing customer service for the research community, while streamlining and standardizing business processes amongst partner agencies. Scientists can use the policy library, apply for grants, and get the latest news. Be sure not to miss opportunities funded by the Recovery Act.

45. Library of Congress : One of the largest libraries in the world, the LOC has tons of free resources for all visitors. Click on Researchers to get more tools for scientists. Others can view massive collections on history, art, and much more.

46. NOAA : The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is charged with all sorts of environmental watches and reports. See what they are up to, read reports, or join forces by visiting. You can also get resources for students.

47. NASA : Explore the final frontier with the help of this massive site. Get mission updates, reports, live videos, and even interviews with top officials. With tons of resources, be sure and make time for this science site.

48. Discovery Channel : With shows like “Mythbusters” and “Man vs. Wild,” there are numerous scientific resources to utilize here. Get videos, interviews with hosts, and much more. There is also a health, science, and animal channel to choose from.

49. Nature.com : Get the world’s latest science and medicine reports on your desktop here. Choose from research, blogs, and special features. You can even submit your own manuscript.

50. PhysOrg : Similar to the above, this site focuses on physics, technology, and Nano science. Spotlight stories are featured on the home page. You can also see the top stories, choose by subject, or submit your own idea. 

Until next time

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!


Does Direct-to-Consumer Television Advertising Really Work?–You Betcha!

Posted in BioBusiness

Last week, the market-analyst firm Manhattan Research released a list of the top branded pharma Web sites based on traffic generated from direct-to-consumer (DTC) television ads. The firm tracked about 250 different product sites and asked 6,575 consumers which websites they visited in the past 12 months. Consumers were asked to recall the reason they visited the site, whether they are taking the product, think they need the product, and the actions they took after they visited the site. The following list represents the top ten product websites that were more likely to have website traffic driven by DTC television ads. However, it is important to note that the rankings are not based on the volume of traffic but the percentage of traffic generated in response to integrated DTC advertising campaigns.  

  1. NuvaRing—Merck (formerly Schering Plough formerly Organon)
  2. Latisse—Allergan
  3. Cialis—Lilly
  4. Boniva—Roche
  5. Abilify—Bristol Myers Squibb
  6. Gardasil—Merck
  7. Yaz— Bayer
  8. Viagra—Pfizer
  9. Levitra—Eli Lilly
  10. Lunesta—Sepracor

Interestingly, of the top ten products on the list about 70% of them have to do with sex or woen’s reproductive health. The exceptions include Abilify (depression and bipolar disease), Lunesta (insomnia) and Latisse (eyelash growth). Pfizer, Levitra and Cialis are treatments for ED, Gardasil is an anti-cervical cancer vaccine, Boniva is used to treat osteoporosis (post menopausal women) whereas Yaz and NuvaRing are both used for birth control.

I thought the results of the survey where interesting because many experts say the effectiveness of DTC television advertising may be waning with the growing use of online resources. While the results of this survey are not conclusive, it suggests that DTC television advertising won’t be going away anytime soon. And that the growing use of televisions as web portals may actually increase not diminish industry’s reliance on DTC television ads to sell its product and treatments—oy! 

Hat tip to George Koroneos at the PharmaExec.com blog.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Watching!!!!!!!!!

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FDA Enters the Digital Age by Issuing 22 Warning Letters to Web Site Operators

Posted in Social Media

The public hearing held by FDA last week in Washington DC to address social media and promotional advertising in the pharmaceutical seems to have altered the agency’s perspective on all things digital. Today, according to a press release, marked the agency’s completion of a coordinated week long international effort called the International Week of Action (IIWA) that was intended to curb illegal actions involving medical and pharmaceutical products.

During the effort, the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI), in conjunction with the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and the Office of Regulatory Affairs, Office of Enforcement, targeted 136 Web sites that appeared to be engaged in the illegal sale of unapproved or misbranded drugs to U.S. consumers. None of the Web sites are for pharmacies in the United States or Canada.

The agency issued 22 warning letters to the operators of these Web sites and notified Internet service providers and domain name registrars that the Web sites were selling products in violation of U.S. law. In many cases, because of these violations, Internet service providers and domain name registrars may have grounds to terminate the Web sites and suspend the use of domain names. Apparently, FDA has taken to sending warning letter en masse—it previously sent identical warning letters to 14 different pharmaceutical companies for improprieties associated with Google search ads.

Is there really a sea change taking place at FDA? Will a carefully and thoughtfully- crafted guidance document on the use of social media be next; now that the agency is no longer afraid to navigate the Internet? Only time will tell….hopefully sooner, rather than later!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Surfing!!!!!!!!!


It Had to Happen Sooner or Later–Pharma Has Discovered YouTube

Posted in Career Advice

First, King Pharmaceuticals posted a non-branded high blood pressure video on YouTube in early 2007. Next, Novartis added a 60-second commercial (as part of its Fluflix campaign) asking people to submit videos about what it’s like to have the flu. Earlier this year, Insmed upped the ante by posting a video lobbying for new legislation for the approval of follow-on biologics in the US. However, these pharma assaults on YouTube pale in comparison to the launch of Johnson & Johnson’s health channel on YouTube earlier this week.

The channel currently showcases a small selection of health information videos created by NBC News chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman while she worked J&J. Video sites, like YouTube and Vimeo, offer pharma companies a place to feature expensive off media advertising assets (that are currently collecting dust) and to post ads for new drugs and products that are ready for launch.  J &J is the first pharma company to recognize that it can leverage the current social media craze to increase its visibility, sell more drugs and bolster its stock price!

While companies could host videos on their own websites,YouTube’s massive traffic of more than 80 million users offers companies a much larger and diverse audience. And unlike blogs or forums, pharma companies have complete control over the content of the videos that they post on video websites. Moreover, they don’t have to worry about negative comments being left after a post (YouTube comments can be turned off), and they can brand and edit video content to target a particular demographic or audience. Finally, videos can be changed or removed by companies as needed.

Continue reading

June 2008-Web Picks

Posted in Uncategorized

Kevin’s selections this month contains a wide variety of sites ranging from an Australian museum guide, to wildlife parks in Tasmania and online information-sharing and management capabilities.  If leeches are your thing check out this site and if you are a dragonfly aficionado this site will do the trick. An interesting site called the Fallacy Files provides insight into fallacies or so-called mistakes in reasoning.

As a sometimes medical writer, the site that piqued my interest was www.connotea.org— an online reference and information sharing-service.  The site provides you with easy and ready access to references, data and other information stored in your account on the site.  Kevin really likes this site and says “Connotea scores big time with this valuable tool for scientists.”  Check it out….

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Web Surfing

May 2008–Around the Web

Posted in Uncategorized

This is the first installment of Kevin Ahern’s Best of the Web at BioJobBlog. This month’s selection contains several technical sites that many practicing bioscientists will find useful. These include: Real Time PCR Primer Sets and RTPrimerDB. The selection that I found most interesting was Blogging the Biotechnology Revolution—although Kevin didn’t like the navigation features of this blog.

If you know of any websites, blogs, etc that you think are useful or interesting, please let me know.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Web Hunting!!!!!!!