MORE THORNY ISSUES
These kinds of limits on pharma company Internet and social media communications raises concerns about broader curbs on industry
use of modern communications technology for a broad range of corporate and operational functions, such as reporting corporate
news and developments, recruiting patients for clinical trials, or operating hot lines to receive consumer questions and comments.
Social media appears to have great potential for expanding public reporting of adverse drug events, for example. FDA posts
online forms for collecting adverse events under its MedWatch program, but the form is long, detailed, and not widely used.
Because consumers already turn to social media to discuss experiences with drugs and biotech therapies, as noted in the Pew
study, there's interest in imbedding an adverse event reporting "widget" into social media sites to encourage wider public
reporting of drug use problems.
Manufacturers are leery of such initiatives, because they would have to scour Twitter and Facebook and other sites to identify
such reports and respond to them, which could be a monumental task. Even with a common format, many publicly reported adverse
events would be useless if they fail to clearly identify the patient, reporter, dosage, and type of event. Furthermore, as
noted above, a pharmaceutical company still would be constrained in addressing misleading adverse-event reports, especially
those involving off-label use.
The Internet has become essential for gaining access to health information, said Jeffrey Francer, assistant general counsel
at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of American (PhRMA), at the CBI conference. FDA has a Facebook page and uses
Twitter to discuss new product approvals. Regulators and manufacturers use blogs and social media to alert the public to product
recalls and safety issues. As these activities expand, industry needs a way to ensure the accuracy of information posted online
about company operations and products, and to correct misleading or fraudulent postings.
Jill Wechsler is BioPharm International's Washington editor, Chevy Chase, MD, 301.656.4634, firstname.lastname@example.org