Pharma Facebook Pages: Did Facebook kill the Social Media star?

OK, I know that headline was a bad 80’s music pun. But John “Pharmaguy” Mack, author of the Pharma Marketing Blog, raises another great point in his post on Wednesday when he notes the timing of Facebook opening up commenting on Facebook fan pages (effective August 15) and two large pharma companies moving to shut down Facebook communities.

First, a little context here: the pharmaceutical industry has been waiting for almost two years for the FDA to issue a guidance on the use of Social Media in the industry. Yet that guidance has not come and, as I noted here months ago, isn’t expected to come until 2013, if then. So pharmaceutical companies have slowly begun dipping their toes into the water, understandably moving very carefully due to their uncertainty over how the FDA’s extensive and complicated drug advertising and marketing rules apply to these new communication tools.

One aspect of Social Media that they have great concern about is user commenting. The FDA has very specific rules regarding the reporting of adverse events, and those rules don’t include posting those tales in a public forum like a Facebook fan page. In addition, like any business, pharmaceutical companies are very protective of their reputation and don’t want one nasty, ill-informed comment to jeopardize a product that they have spent hundreds of million dollars and many years researching, developing, testing and bringing through the FDA’s new drug approval process. So they moderate user comments carefully in the Facebook communities that they set up.

Now that Facebook is opening up user commenting on Facebook pages, several pharmaceutical companies are getting cold feet about engaging patients (ie, their customers) in this space. As Mack notes, Jannsen Pharmaceuticals is shutting down its ADHD Moms community, abandoning almost 24,000 followers. And Sanofi-Aventis is shutting down its “Voices” page, redirecting patients to its Sanofi US page.

Are these companies being prudent in response to Facebook’s changes? Are they overreacting? Or, as Mack suggests at the end of his piece, is this just a cover story for other reasons to shut down these communities?


2 Responses to Pharma Facebook Pages: Did Facebook kill the Social Media star?

  1. Krista says:

    What a shame to pull the plug, especially if some of these companies have already built communities for patients and caregivers. This speaks to the need for pharma to have considered all the scenarios, including the Facebook comments, before going out into social media. When they backtrack like this, it smacks of suspicious behavior and ends up costing them their relationships with third parties and patients who had otherwise been loyal to them.

  2. Pingback: The best businesses allow customer criticism « On Message

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