To help me face the day, I usually wake up to the news from my local National Public Radio affiliate, WHYY out of Philadelphia. This AM, as I digested the latest on the bailout package and other news, I had a pleasant surprise.
WHYY's health and science reporter, Kerry Grens, did a short, yet thoughtful piece on the complexities faced by companies in the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry as they try to use social media to interact with the people who use their products.
Through a series of interviews, some of which were conducted at the recent ePharma conference in Philly (that's where she interviewd me and Steve Woodruff) Kerry explained that as people increasingly trust health information provided by other like-minded individuals online rather than more traditional advertising or marketing messages, companies are trying to get their arms around how best they too can be part of those online conversations.
It isn't easy. As Kerry pointed out, one big hurdle is "something called adverse event reporting" that companies need to report to the Food and Drug Administration.
Now those who read this blog know that I've often discussed approaches taken by Johnson & Johnson, our operating companies and others to get involved online . (here, here and here, for instance) Getting involved not only requires an understanding of the risks, but also new processes to handle adverse event reports and ensuring there are people involved who can respond quickly to questions or new developments.
As I've said before, though, it is only by experimenting and trying out new approaches (perhaps by first taking small steps ) that you can get a true understanding of the risks and how best to mitigate them. Yet it is also important for people who are looking for information and connections online to understand the limitations that companies in highly-regulated industries are under -- and that what may look like "baby steps" are really earnest efforts to get involved.
The complete podcast of the segment is available on WHYY's site.