Interesting developments in online social media and drug companies, in the past week. As you know, the FDA has been soliciting requests about how to manage online social media for drug and device manufacturers. This is clearly a lot for drug companies to deal with, and here are some things they should wrap their minds around:
- Sanofi-Aventis VOICES Facebook Page: This drug company, maker of the cancer drug Taxotere, learned first-hand the downside of having a Facebook site that allows interaction with customers. That downside is that customers interact. One Taxotere user posted complaints to the FB page about the drug, only to have her post removed. Undeterred, she sent more posts, opened other Facebook accounts, sent more posts, had friends send posts, and just generally assaulted the Sanofi-Aventis stronghold. Finally, Sanofi-Aventis changed their information and stated on the FB page:
This page is not intended as a forum for discussing sanofi-aventis’ or other companies’ products. As such, Postings that contain product discussions will be removed by sanofi-aventis.
See John Mack’s Pharma Marketing Blog, which examines whether the complainant’s posts constitute a reportable adverse event that Sanofi-Aventis must share with the FDA.
This exemplifies some of the problems drug companies will face in creating online social media—how much customer interaction is too much? The value of social media is that it is open to comments and questions and interaction. Otherwise, it becomes simply another mouthpiece for the company, and is bereft of actual benefits (though, to be fair, it would also limit possible damages). But, Sanofi-Aventis now just looks bad for canceling the conversation.
- Use of hashtags for online social media: Again, John Mack’s blog has a good analysis of this as a possible partial solution to the problem of presenting consumers with a full and balanced view of drug risks and benefits.