Pharma's social media 'Hunger Games'

Last month, at the Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Group Annual National Conference, I participated on "The Coming of Age of Social Media and Healthcare" panel.

Last month, at the Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Group Annual National Conference, I participated on “The Coming of Age of Social Media and Healthcare” panel.

My fellow panelists were the always pugnacious FDA legal consultant Arnie Friede, UCB's senior product manager for consumer marketing Pat Choumitsky, and Eric Schultz of QuantiaMD. The session was ably moderated by Mark Bard, the founder of the Digital Health Coalition.

Here are a few thoughts on the subject that arose from this event:

How many times have you heard, vis-à-vis social media and healthcare, that, “Pharma is different.” That's true, but consumers are the same. They don't think about why pharma is absent from the conversation, and they don't care. They assume it's because the industry “has something to hide” or that they're afraid of mixing it up with real people in real time.

And there's more than a little truth to that.

Is social media about “collaborating” with consumers or “cooperating” with them? What's the difference? Well, cooperation happens when both sides want to survive. Collaboration happens when they want to thrive. Collaboration means interacting honestly and transparently. And pharma's opportunity, within the context of social media, is to be the first among equals.

Otherwise social media becomes the healthcare Hunger Games.

Success for pharma in social media will come through collaboration - and that doesn't mean “selling.”

And may the odds be ever in your favor.

Peter J. Pitts is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, a former FDA associate commissioner, and a member of the Digital Health Coalition's board of advisors.

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