Don’t fix the blame—fix the problem

Pharmaceutical marketers are in a tough spot when it comes to social media. On the one hand, they understand the importance and opportunity of it....

Pharmaceutical marketers are in a tough spot when it comes to social media. On the one hand, they understand the importance and opportunity of it. On the other, they are restrained and frustrated by a number of barriers, including actual and implied ones from the FDA, and self-imposed ones from the nabobs of “no” (aka MLR – medical legal review). Anti-depressants anyone?

Social media is a social movement, and using the excuse that pharma can’t engage because, “We’re different,” misses the point. Compliance issues are very important, but it’s precisely because of the “special differences” that pharmaceutical companies must engage actively and creatively in social media. And that difference is the responsibility of advancing the public health.

Don’t pin all the blame on MLR. They’re on board. As the head of one large pharma’s MLR department commented to me, “We have to talk to our customers where they are – and they are in social media.”

MLR looks at risk, but is marketing presenting the benefits? And what about the FDA? The agency is certainly sending mixed messages. Yet, a senior Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) official said at the Drug Information Association (DIA) meeting last month: “The FDA does not want to stifle the use of social media.” Good news? We’ll see.

Peter Pitts, director of global healthcare and partner, Porter Novelli

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