Although nearly two-thirds of respondents to a PMN survey thought that using Twitter for patient support activities would be somewhat or very effective, relatively few pharmaceutical companies are doing this on a regular basis. From time to time, however, I do see it happening.
Today, for example, I discovered that Boehringer Ingelheim tweeters in Germany (@boehringer) responded to a tweet from a U.S. caregiver who was seeking help in purchasing Spiriva HandiHaler for her mother. First, this person complained to @BarackObama because of the high cost of the product:
@BarackObama @Messina2012 cam some1 tell me y my moms ESSENTIAL medication is $135.00 a month? That's 2 MUCH 4 some1 on a fixed income :-(She then followed up with a tweet sent to the attention of @Boehringer:
@Boehringer hellol My mother needs 2 purchase Spiriva HandiHaler & her insurance wont cover it. Are there any coupons or assistance 4 this?Although @Boehringer is the German-based Twitter account of BI, it did respond. Here's the conversation:
I commend BI for using Twitter to carry on a conversation about a product rather than just providing @Shaundre an 800 number to call. Also, BI -- in Germany -- has taken the extra step in contacting the US office on @Shaundre's behalf. Good job, BI!
Note that BI first asks if @Shaundre spoke to her (or her mother's) doctor about the issue. Preserving the patient-doctor relationship is important when pharma deals directly with patients or caregivers. About 57% of respondents to the survey mentioned above were of the opinion that use of Twitter by pharma for direct-to-patient support activities could be viewed by physicians as coming between them and their patients. Only 30% said these activities would not interfere with the patient-physician relationship.
UPDATE: @boehringerus, BI's U.S. Twitter account, posted this tweet:
@Shaundrie: Thank you for your message. Send your contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will contact you directly.