Pharma & Social Media : A Strengthening Relationship

As one of the most heavily regulated industries, it has not been easy for pharma to incorporate social media into their business. Recently, the FDA delivered the The Social Media Draft Guidance Webinar clarifying the rules pharma companies need to adhere to while engaging on social channels. Although not exhaustive, the initiative has provided the much needed buoyancy to the lukewarm efforts of pharma on various social platforms.

Johnson & Johnson is a leading example of how a pharma brand has successfully used social channels not only to improve its brand presence but also to start dialogues on some of the pressing issues in healthcare. The firm has been active on traditional social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube where it essentially shares content to increase awareness of diseases, promote understanding of various research studies and recommend health related articles. In addition, the company was also quick to utilize the non-traditional social channels such as Pinterest to further support its campaign for nursing. Here are some ways in which phrama can further enrich its partnership with social media–

Monitor

  • Patient and HCP Activity: It is observed that most online health communities are centred around patients, care givers and health care professionals. While patients and care givers use online forums to search information and seek support, HCPs use them for social networking, gather patient info, share views on current research and concerns over treatments. Drug companies can dig this data to learn about patient and physician behaviour. This would help them identify and increase the relevance of their communication. For instance if multiple patients are reporting certain side effects of a drug that couldn’t be identified during the drug discovery process, pharma companies can take note of it and incorporate this information on their labels. In addition, pharma can use these channels to collaborate with key opinion leaders to effectively position and target its drugs.

Respond

  • Crises management: Among other things patients use social platforms to discuss side effects of the drugs they are using. Of these side effects, there are some that would require further investigation for possible adverse event reporting. Pharma companies can put analytics to use to identify such events and report to FDA which mandates adverse event reporting.

Amplify

  • Education: In light of lack of trust in between patients and pharma companies it has become crucial to improve this image. One way of doing so is through education. For instance firms can create interactive social media content that would explain the public about overall costs needed to develop a drug. Additionally through Facebook, Twitter, Youtube firms can share insights on disease condition that aims at making people more aware of them and hence better tackle them.

Lead

  • Crowdsourcing: The wisdom of crowds to solve problems has become very popular in other industries but not as much in pharma. Social media allows for a much wider audience’s (patients, GPs, nurses, scientists) collective expertise to find solutions to issues that cannot be solved by individual specialist groups. For example a translational science institute utilized crowdsourcing technique to reduce inefficiencies in the drug discovery process which in turn decreased the cost of drugs and also helped in a speedier drug adoption. Another glowing example is the website PatientsLikeMe that basically crowd sources patient outcomes.
  • Clinical Trial Improvement: By listening to what patients are talking about on social media, pharma companies can get insights on clinical trial program planning. These insights would help them make faster trial enrolment and trials more accessible to patients that need them.

The use of social media in pharma is essentially to develop and nurture stakeholder (patients,HCPs) relationships. Being heavily regulated, pharma needs to be very vigilant about how it does that.  Probably the ‘Listen more than you speak’ approach seems like the most viable option for now.

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