Why Is Pharma Stuck in Web 1.0? J&J Tries to Break Free

Oct. 23, 2008
A nice discussion recently on BNET with J&J's Joe Natale, who is heading up J&J's first foray into website entrepreneurship.
A nice discussion recently on BNET with J&J's Joe Natale, who is heading up J&J's first foray into website entrepreneurship. J&J hopes not only to provide a public service by hosting a community site for families who have children with type 1 diabetes, but it also hopes to make money in doing so.

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.


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