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What Doctors, RNs and Patients Don’t Know About Pharma

Posted by | 2:57pm on Friday, December 21, 2012
question mark used on Siren Interactive's rare disease blog SirenSong

Patient advocate, Weiss, was looking to pharmaceutical companies to provide accurate answers to his questions on prescription medication 

“Social media is a wonderful green field of opportunity. It’s also messy—so get used to it!” said Peter Pitts as he launched the Social Media, Mobile & Gaming for Pharma conference last week in New York City. I copresented with Katie White, communications manager at Lundbeck, who shared a successful Facebook case study.

A great feature of the event was the inclusion of several patients and a few healthcare professionals. The conference covered a lot of material, but one point that resonated with me is that many healthcare professionals and patients are unaware of pharma regulatory restrictions.

Bunny Ellerin led a panel including Wen Dombrowksi, MD, Robbie Freeman, RN, and Michael Weiss, chrohn’s disease activist. All the panelists were sophisticated users of social media and were actively looking for pharma to participate in the space. When asked, all three were unaware of the restrictions that the pharmaceutical industry faced, in particular the concept of fair balance–when a drug benefit is mentioned the risks must be included as well.

Patient advocate, Weiss, was looking to pharmaceutical companies to provide accurate answers to his questions on prescription medication for his condition. He was baffled as to why pharma wouldn’t talk to him via his preferred social networks.

Freeman was looking to pharma to provide interactive educational tools, for example on self-injections, to use with his patients at Beth Israel Medical Center. From my perspective, I know that there are a variety of tools already developed and that pharma companies are trying to get them into the hands of interested nurses like him. When I asked how he learns about these types of resources, he recommended the American Nurses Association Twitter feed. Freehman noted that he used to get educational information from pharmaceutical sales reps but that the hospital no longer allows that.

The challenge
It’s clear that pharma needs a campaign to explain the restrictions in a common sense way to healthcare professionals and the public. We also need to figure out an effective way to get disease education tools into the hands of physicians and nurses. What do you think about these challenges?

The real deal
Authenticity was another topic at the conference. One presenter noted that people can sniff out stock photography on websites pretty quickly and recommended using photos of real people. Bob Maguire from Merck mentioned that you can’t fake authenticity when it comes to blogging. He said that having ghost bloggers for company executives is a bad idea.

Another ongoing theme was the investment required in resources and funding to run effective social media programs. My comment, “Social media is free like a puppy is free,” was very popular!

Image courtesy of Horia Varlan on Flickr (CC BY).

About Eileen O'Brien

Eileen has more than 16 years of digital healthcare marketing experience. She is an opinion leader on social media and biopharma, and has been invited to speak at industry conferences and quoted in publications.

View other posts from Eileen

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