Many digital pharma marketers are tempted to avoid social media altogether due to strict advertising regulations by the FDA, and the unwillingness of some platform providers (Facebook) to adjust policies for the industry.
As per FDA regulations, all pharma advertising needs to be consistent with the drug label and cannot reference competitors. Unfortunately, this also means that any comments made by the public on social platforms (Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/etc.) need to fall within FDA regulations as well, regardless of who is making the comment.
In the past, to combat any “illegal” comments made on a pharma company’s Facebook page by the public, the Wall of the specific page was disabled so comments could not be added by anyone other than a page administrator. This allowed companies to use Facebook as a social medium in a controlled environment.
As of August 2011, Facebook began to require all companies to allow comments to be posted to their Walls. As a result, many pharma companies were forced to remove their Facebook pages in fear of potential comments that could be made by the public about their brand, or a competitor’s.
Does this mean pharma companies can no longer participate on Facebook, while almost all other industries, products and brands can? Are there any options for pharma marketers who still want to maintain a presence on Facebook?
Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. and EMD Serono, Inc./Pfizer Inc. should serve as examples to digital pharma marketers of how to maintain a Facebook presence in an age where people often use Facebook even more than Google.
Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc., the maker of Lunesta, uses an app similar to PharmaWall, which “allows users to post and comment on posts. However, instead of instantly publishing to Facebook, PharmaWall stores the post in a queue for behind-the-scenes review by the administrator”. Is this effective? One would argue yes, as Lunesta has 3,071 “Likes”.
Another option is to sponsor a condition support group like EMD Serono, Inc./Pfizer Inc. “MS Voices: A Multiple Sclerosis Community” allows people to connect and discuss Multiple Sclerosis. While no drug name is promoted, there are links directing the community to http://emdserono.com/ and http://pfizer.com/. As every marketer knows, each link to your website counts.
Social platforms and the FDA may eventually find ways for pharma companies to participate in social advertising. In the meantime however, there is no reason to wait. Marketers should follow the paths of Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. and EMD Serono, Inc./Pfizer Inc. and get their brand out there. After all, isn’t our goal to educate, treat and support through all marketing and advertising efforts available to us?