Social Media Channel for Regulated Industries


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Pfizer tomtomed about what they call as the first slideshare channel from a regulated industry player and many social media pundits have taken up arms against this claim & termed the channel as not social at all since Pfizer is not interacting, but rather only using it again as a channel to publish its materials – a very one way communication.

I thought it would be prudent to make it plain about some of the aspects of social media that is not conducive to the regulated industry, especially Pharma. Of course there are far better informed people than me in this area, but this is just for my audience. Also, these are only my limited understanding, what I have gained by working with clients in these industries as well as attending seminars & being a panelist in their industry meetings.

Importantly, I am not a lawyer or an expert in these areas. You should not hold me responsible for anything that you do with the information I write in this post, if you are ok with that, please continue reading more after the jump. (If anybody from Pharma industry gets to read this & there are any factual mistakes, please do leave a comment & I will make the corrections).

First of all, we need to understand that before a Pharma can publish any material about its products, whether promotional or educational, it has to adhere to some stipulations from the FDA which fall under DDMAC, for example they cannot just mention about the benefits but also have to explicitly mention about the risks of their drug. Well there are far more, but its all about the content, not the channel. So as a simple thumb rule, if you are a Pharma marketer, just be aware of the FDA/DDMAC rules that apply to your traditional promotional/education content, be it text or video or audio. Similar rules apply to the content of the video irrespective of whether that gets aired on TV or gets published on youtube.

So we have some clarity on the content creation part. If not, go on, hit this link and listen into the podcast with an FDA official to hear about it. And do you realize that FDA is a regulator only for the USA & that in the EU Pharma companies cannot do promotions about their prescription medicines? The rules are stricter there.

So, it is no wonder that Pfizer’s SlideShare channel has so less about its products and has more about its corporate functions &/or performance.

Ok, now we all know that social media is not only about publishing content but also about listening & responding/engaging with the audiences/community. Heres the issue for Pharma (and I believe for Financial too, not too sure) – if ever a pharma employee gets to hear about an adverse event about a drug their employer produces (comments like, you know I used XYZ for my headache & I think my mouth was going dry) they have to immediately get more information about that adverse event & file it with FDA (similar rule exists for Europe too).

And the FDA guidelines (or are they rules?) for Adverse Event reporting state that you have to get the patient details, the doctor details, the ailment details, the drug & the adverse event details before you can even submit them to FDA. Thanks to countless lawsuits & fines, etc. the Pharma companies typically have it like a code of conduct that they should follow up on the conversation or whatever & dig out the information if they come across adverse events. Anywhere. Including social media.

So if there is somebody writing on the Pfizer Viagra website using Google Sidewiki that their arm fell off after taking their medication, what is Pfizer to do?

It is an adverse event, not spam! Sorry, you and me can argue about it until the cows come home, but that’s the Pharma industry for you Mr. Social Media Guru/Pundit (whatever other term you use to blaspheme these exalted roles).

I am given to believe that in the financial industry, if you hear about a complaint you are bound to service it. I am not too sure about it & its all hearsay.

The point I am trying to make is listening (& engaging) in social media is not an easy job for the regulated industry. There are various factors in play that can help them, mainly technology, but also importantly educating its employees about these aspects as well as getting clarity from the regulatory bodies about the implications of this new channel that can talk back on the existing policies.

These are just a few of the pains of the regulated industry. I have already blogged about the social media archival requirements in the financial industry. If you are aware of any more such issues, please do share it with us via the comments. 🙂

Update: John Mack (@pharmaguy) points us to this report on how Pharma can overcome the listening problems and also shares why Pfizer would win his “Close, but no Cigar Award“.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Prem Kumar Aparanji
SCRM Evangelist @ Cognizant. Additional knowledge in BPM, QA, Innovations, Solutions, Offshoring from previous roles as developer, tester, consultant, manager. Interested in FLOSS, Social Media, Social Networks & Rice Writing. Love SF&F books. Blessed with a loving wife & a curious kid. :)


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