According to Tracy Stanton of Fiercepharmamarketing, pharmaceutical companies have so far shown caution with respect to the use of social media. Engagement with health care professionals and the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) is often in response to predictable regulatory-oriented discussions; however, engaging with patients and members of the public is risky and can cause damage to brand reputation. The leading pharmaceutial groups are adept at direct consumer advertising and handling challenges from the medical profession, but patients and the public are another matter.

The IMS institute for Healthcare Informatics finds that less than 50 percent of leading drug makers engage in social media, and only ten use established marketing tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. There are good reasons for the reticence in engagement with patients and the public that include the lack of regulation with respect to business and social media use.

  • Until regulations are defined, the risks involved in social media marketing and engagement may be uncertain and substantial. The claims that pharmaceutical companies make are monitored and can quickly cause intervention by the USFDA preventing products from reaching the market, or removing them from it.
  • The FDA is, however, is active on social media. It is expected to provide guidelines in 2014. Until then, patients and the public will continue to derive most of their product information from Wikipedia, but the information can be unreliable. Some pharmaceutical companies are, therefore, using social media to represent more accurate data.
  • Fiercepharmamarketing recommends a “softly, softly” approach. Action is required because impending regulation will cause most pharmaceutical companies to devise social media strategies. One that tests the waters and chooses safe ground with established products might be the way to go. Collecting information before devising response strategies can also help to manage negative feedback.

Social media specialists, PR representatives, and professionals with specific expertise will be necessary to address social media marketing initiatives. ClinLab Staffing can offer advice on industry trends in addition to meeting your staffing needs. We provide consulting services and have experts in pharmaceutical and other industries. Contact one of our biopharm recruiters in Boston to learn how we can support your research and product design.