On 6/16/11, I attended the BioConference Live interactive online-only life science conference and attended the Panel Discussion titled, “Social Media in Regulated Industries: What are the Opportunities and where is the line?” I thought I would share some the interesting points brought up during the discussion. Panelists included Moderator Tina Baumgartner from Accella Group, Pamela Lund from PL Interactive, and Lianne McLean and Mya Thomae from Myraqa.
Baumgartner said that some of the opportunities in social media are the ability to “listen to customers, recruiting employees, attracting funding, and increasing visibility.” She discussed three of the common misconceptions of social media, which include that it is primarily a tool for marketing and PR, it is too complicated and time consuming, and it has the same regulatory compliance risk as traditional PR and advertising. None of which are true, according to Baumgartner.
McLean discussed a number of challenges to marketing in a regulated environment such as companies are only allowed to promote their product for the legally approved label and they must report adverse reactions. She also pointed out that “the FDA’s regulatory stance has been unclear.” Apparently, the FDA has been promising a guidance document since 1996. In the meanwhile, the FDA has been issuing warning letters to companies that they think have crossed the line. In July 2010, the FDA sent Novartis a letter issuing four violations for its “Facebook Share” widget saying among other things that it did not present a balanced viewpoint of its leukemia drug, Tasigna.
One of the attendees asked the panel, “will there be regulatory documents coming soon from the FDA?” The answer was “not really.” Another attendee asked, “what is the time horizon of widespread adoption of social media?” Panelist McLean said “in the next couple of years or so.” She also said that “pharma companies would adopt more quickly than diagnostic companies.”