"Hanging as Long As..."

Three years later, we are still waiting for the FDA to issue its social media guidance

By Michele Vaccarello Wagner, Senior Editor, Digital Media

Growing up my grandmother often used the common phrase, “I’d hate to be hanging as long as…” and then something along the lines of “she’s been 65 years old,” or “those berries are fresh from the vine,” or some other falsity that confused me as a child yet helped form my cynical sarcasm…a trait I am proud of today.

Over the past 38 weeks, which has felt like a small eternity, this tune has changed, for me at least, to “I’d hate to be pregnant as long as…” insert inaccuracy here. Yes, by the time you read this column I will be on maternity leave, sleep deprived and covered in spit-up, along with all the other glorious things that go along with the blessings of having a newborn baby.

I contemplated what I might want to write about for my last column until most likely the summer, and one topic came to mind. A topic that I have written about probably more than a dozen times in the past five years, and when coupled with one of my favorite cynical phrases, it sounds something like this:

“I’d hate to be hanging (or pregnant) as long as it has taken FDA to issue a formal social media guidance.” 

The first time I wrote about this issue was January 2009, and when the official “Promotion of FDA-Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media’ hearing on Nov. 12-13, 2009, finally occurred, we all thought a proposed Guidance wasn’t far behind. But it seems we’re all still “hanging.”

However, Big Pharma doesn’t appear to be waiting around, and the industry has taken off in terms of social media participation over the past few years in an effort not only to engage with consumers, but also to help monitor adverse drug reactions and patient information and experience. I’ve written about several pharma companies in the past, taking to Twitter to promote scientific information and track diseasesBig Pharma waging war with Facebook for more controlled pages  and companies like Roche who have established their own social media guidelines as helpful models for other companies. 

And it now appears, the biotech industry is following suit. As reported in a recent article from FierceBio, it appears the bio industry is warming up to Facebook as scientists configure ways to track how disease spreads through populations and across geographic areas. (http://tinyurl.com/cmjjc6t). A Facebook app called “PiggyDemic” created by Tel Aviv University tries to predict disease by showing how germs are swapped by friends on social networking sites. Some 400 academic papers since have mentioned the social network and similar apps are in beta testing. 

I am proud of how Big Pharma has embraced social media despite a clear-cut guidance from FDA and I look forward to seeing how the bio industry leverages social media sites for the greater good of healthcare. 

I will be signing off from this column for a few months so “hang” tight. I will be back soon and looking forward to hearing about how you and your company are using digital media in your everyday professions.

Published in the April 2013 issue of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

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