Are pharma companies learning to listen? Di Spencer charts the love-hate relationship between the industry and social media.
Are you feeling the love? The last few weeks have seen pharma step blinking into the bright light of online interaction with more determination than ever before. The blogs are alive with whispers that the industry has “turned a corner” and “the silence has been broken”. Like Colin Firth in The King’s Speech, it seems that pharma is ‘finding its voice’.
As Pharmaphorum‘s Emma D’Arcy (@darcyemma) puts it: “2011 seems to have been appointed the year that pharma finally finds its voice about using its voice. No more hoarse hiding behind the regulatory purgatory excuse nor blaming a lack of interactivity on legal.”
Perhaps the most momentous and daring move was AstraZeneca’s decision to host a live ‘tweet chat’, which saw the company challenged by various critics on prescription drug costs. The reaction to the decision was positive on the whole, accompanied by a general surge of goodwill from social media advocates. You can follow the chat on the #rxsave hashtag.
However, in her first blog, Emma D’Arcy’s ‘gold prize’ (or perhaps we should go for ‘Oscar’ to be topical) went to sanofi-aventis for its efforts in establishing itself in the SM universe and for a focus on health “not just treatment”.
Other companies have been praised for the establishment of online communities and support tools for specific patient groups. Merck Serono recently launched an international social networking site for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, ‘Unite MS’ (@uniteMS). In a statement Dr Roberto Gradnik, Executive Vice President for Neurodegenerative Diseases at Merck Serono, said: “As the MS community continues to look to social networks to stay informed and connected, we see it as our responsibility to provide a vehicle that helps them do so more efficiently than ever.”
On International Rare Disease Day, it only seems right to also draw attention to the large number of resources for patients with hereditary angioedema (HAE), managed by ViroPharma, CSL Behring and Dyax, which provide information and services to patients that would otherwise feel considerably isolated.
So, for once, everyone is talking about what pharma is doing right in the social media world. Love is in the air. Let’s hope it lasts.
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