I was talking to some folks at a big global pharma last week and I discovered that pharma doesn’t like social networking. (Give me a break – I’m a software security guy, I think about these things in terms of threats to intellectual property and I thought everyone “gets” social networking). If you understand how pharmaceuticals are sold, this is not surprising but it seemed worthwhile to take some time and learn more about the great pharma-social networking divide before diving into a more detailed discussion of why pharmas have a problem with social media (mostly regulation but not just).
I recently read an article by Adriane Fugh-Berman and Douglas Melnick about Off-Label Promotion, On-Target Sales
In the pharmaceutical industry, there are two ways to market an approved drug for a new use: the “indication” route—performing studies necessary for regulatory approval—or the “publication” strategy, which stimulates off-label prescribing by using research “to disseminate the information as widely as possible through the world’s medical literature” ((2006) Narrative review: The promotion of gabapentin: An analysis of internal industry documents. Ann Intern Med 145: 284–293.)
Pharmas want to be ethical but there are threats to ethical behavior: the need to approve a drug quickly and grow sales by applying drugs to off-label indications. One approach for a pharma to mitigate the risk off-label marketing is to control communications to doctors using social networking tools:
Step 1 – Provide well known medical authorities with a controlled and moderated channel for blogging in a professional network for medical reps and docs The blogs would feature independent opinions, and be moderated; ensuring that the industry experts are able to provide objective information on efficacy of drugs and evidence-based prescription and help pharmas comply with FDA regulation prohibiting off-label promotion.
Step 2 – Provide practical dosage guidelines according to drug indications on a professional network for medical reps and docs A rep, product manager and pharma have a private, professional channel to communicate recommendations in a practical and ethical manner.