Tuesday, May 12, 2009

65% of Psychiatrists Say "NO" to Pharma on Facebook!

Psychiatric Times (PT), "the forum for the voice of psychiatry," is currently running a poll on its home page that asks readers a simple question:

"Do you agree that pharmaceutical companies should be allowed to join social networking sites, such as Facebook, to promote their products?"

So far, 65% of respondents say "No" and only 25% say "Yes."

Although there are not enough votes cast to make this significant, I am interested in following this poll as time goes on to see if the numbers change. You can find the poll here.

The readers of PT are predominantly psychiatrists (88% of approx. 39,000 subscribers), a group of physicians that up until now have received a lot of money from pharmaceutical companies to help promote new "medical conditions" such as "PGAD" (see "PGAD. EGAD! Another Syndrome/Disorder, Whatever!"). I assume the majority of poll respondents are psychiatrists too.

Of course, this poll allows respondents a great deal of latitude in interpreting the phrase "promote their products." Does this mean placing an ad in the right-hand column of targeted Facebook pages just like every other advertiser does? Does it mean Facebook pages devoted to products created by pharma marketers? Or does it mean pharma marketers posing as patients and posting comments praising products? I would say "No" to the latter, and say "Yes" to the first two. But I didn't have that option. Thus, I was among the 10% who were "Unsure."

And, there is no way of confirming that the majority of respondents are actually psychiatrists, especially now that I am promoting this poll here on Pharma Marketing Blog!

So, I'm sorry about the misleading title of this post. But it would be interesting to know what physicians (and patents) think of pharmaceutical companies engaging in their social networks. Yes, I know that Sermo polled its physician members and claimed that "more than 50% of [poll] respondents were in favor of having some kind of interaction with the industry" (see "Sermo CEO Talks About Pfizer Collaboration" and "Collaborating with Online Physician Communities"). That result, however, was based on only 89 responses -- a self-selected group of less than 0.3% of all Sermo members. According to Daniel Palestrant, M.D., founder and CEO of Sermo, the site also did "extensive focus grouping" to gauge their members’ preferences.

So as not to let a good opportunity to ask your opinion go to waste, I developed the How Should Pharma Engage in Patient/Physician Social Networks? Survey, which I hope you will respond to now.


  1. I've talked with two psychiatrists about their thoughts on Pharma Marketing. The problems they have with pharma marketing is the regulations concerning side affect disclosure. While they of course agree that patients should be aware of the side affects, they prefer not to have their patients hear about the side affects in a commercial or on a facebook page. When a depressed person with an eating disorder reads on facebook that the new anti-depressent they were just prescribed causes weight gain, they stop taking the drug. It's not the best way to convey risks/benefits according to many psychiatrists.

  2. Maybe a facebook page written by a regulated pharma company is not the best way for patients to learn about and deal with side effects of a drug. But, pages and comments from PATIENTS who have gone through the experience and health with it may be just as good or BETTER than hearing it from their physicians who may err on the other side by downplaying the side effects.

  3. I meant to say "dealt with it" not "health with it"

  4. Kind of a little late for this seeing as many companies already have joined Facebook, et.al. to promote their products, eh? (See list here: http://bit.ly/B3PR7)

    What's Psychiatric Times' next survey? "Do you think we should send a man to the moon?"

  5. Jonathan,

    LOL, but I'm still interested in learning if there is ANY major study out there that asked consumers or physicians what are and what are not appropriate ways for pharmaceutical companies to engage them withing their SM communities.

    All too often we -- who are close to the industry -- assume that (1) pharma has the right to engage, and (2) we (pharma and its agents) have the responsibility for setting the guidelines WITHOUT really getting the audience's POV.

  6. At the end of the day, the pharma industry is selling products and getting the word out about said products is the name of the game. Social media is one way of getting the word out - why wouldn't pharma want to use it - and consumers and physicians can engage or ignore, just like they do any other means of communication.

    I'm pro information - so I say bring it on pharma!


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