Is pharma providing relevant social media web content?

Some people are disappointed at the latest FDA notice to Novartis over a Facebook button on one of their website pages.

The key question that a lot of people fail to ask is “do patients want to have a conversation with a drug company?”  From almost one year of qualitative and quantitative research plus other 3rd party research (i.e. Rodale DTC Study) the answer to that is “no.”

Now before you get your bowels in an uproar here are some things to think about:

1. What would the conversation be about? Pharma obviously could not talk to patients about symptoms, or how to take their medications.  This would not only open the flood gates for lawyers it might get physicians upset as they might feel a drug company is coming between the physician-patient relationship.

2. Who would they talk to? Marketers?  Medical people?  In case you hadn’t noticed, pharma is laying off people left and right and legal/regulatory people would have a stroke if someone talked to patients without screening the conversation.

3. What is the value to the patient? Patients can get a lot more information at other sites including a wealth of social media health sites.  Since the trust in pharma and the FDA is at an all time low what makes anyone think that there could be a conversation based on trust.

Now does this apply to 100% of the industry ?  No, maybe a company like Dendreon could advise patients via social media where they are in providing cancer patients with their new Provenge. However the conversation could quickly turn ugly as patients awaiting treatment try to get to the head of the line and question the cost.

The value in social media for pharma is to bring people together to share insights into treatment options and health issues.  They can help get good credible information to patients and by providing deep links and thus reducing the amount of time consumers need to get the key information they need to make informed decisions.

There is no way that the conservative FDA is going to allow patients to confer with pharma unless it’s to report an adverse event if they won’t even allow a Facebook button on a product website.   More and more the FDA is handcuffing pharma in social media but pharma is also not doing enough when it comes to serving up personally relevant web content.

It has been my experience that scientists and medical people have a hard time understanding marketing because marketing is not based on science, consumers do not act rational on or offline.   As for a conversation with pharma?  It ain’t happening, so better start thinking outside the box and within FDA guidelines or else the marketing of prescription drugs to consumers will become a secondary source of information that will be ignored by patients.

Richard Meyer is Executive Director/Principal at Online Strategic Solutions and blogs at World of DTC

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