While there may be ethical concerns about this (and Natale addresses some of them), interviewer Jim Edwards does pose an intriguing question: Why is it that pharma companies all seem to be stuck in web 1.0, afraid to establish real, open communities on their websites? Fear--mostly of adverse event reporting, legit or not--seems to be the answer.
Natale talks about how J&J, at least for the diabetes site, has gone beyond that fear and established a thriving (and, yes, profitable) social networking venture. Here's an excerpt that I found most interesting--read the entire interview at the link above.
BNET: Have you had any contact with the FDA about this?
Natale: We have not had any direct interaction with the FDA. I’m sure the FDA is, as we speak, evaluating the social networking space. [The FDA does not have] a robust dictionary or guide for this. You have to focus on your ethics and the integrity of your company.
BNET: I hear that brand managers who want to do this kind of thing get rejected by their internal lawyers and regulatory groups a lot.
Natale: Most of them have been frustrated, unable to convince their management or secure support. They’re trying to figure out how they can do it.
BNET: CWD is essentially an online media play. Do you let competing companies advertise on it?
Natale: Companies that compete against J&J can advertise. We’re an insulated unit, unbiased and objective. If we were only talking about J&J products we would only be giving them a fraction of what they need.
BNET: Are you profitable?
Natale: The role we play in our franchise is to be a profitable unit. We’ve retained all our advertisers [from before the acquisition]. From our sponsors and advertisers there was some concern upfront, no doubt about that, but we’ve honored our commitment. We’re a single independent, insulated business unit. We just acquired a site in Madrid, Spain. Just like our company, it was started by a father whose daughter had diabetes. Our intent now is to continue to grow globally and utilize networks in each one of these regions.