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The highs and lows of social media: Pharma companies are finding the lack of regulations around social media disconcerting

“The industry may never be able to take part in two-way conversations with its consumers, as it represents too much compliance risk.”


Robin Robinson


10 April 2013

PA’s Jim Andrew, a life sciences and healthcare industry expert, is quoted in an articleon marketing compliance in pharma. The article examines that, while pharma has made great strides in digital marketing, companies are still hesitating when it comes to social media due to the lack of regulatory guidance.

According to data from PA Consulting Group, there are more than 500 million active users on Facebook and an estimated 184 million bloggers worldwide today.

Jim says: The myriad of regulations that apply to print media are the same in effect for digital marketing materials. But it is in the sphere of social media that the rules get very ambiguous. Maintaining compliance in developing digital marketing programs is a fairly straightforward process; however, the industry may feel it is still a bit of the Wild West on the social media side. There is a lot of exciting marketing being done by the industry in the digital space, but not so much in social media. There may be patient communities, Facebook pages and forums that exist for patients to have discussions, but they aren’t operated by pharma companies.”

Jim believes that the only risk-free way for pharma to use social media is only as a ‘push medium’. The industry may never be able to take part in two-way conversations with its consumers, as it represents too much compliance risk,” he says.

Jim observes that many leaders in the C-suite are still printing out emails and do not use digital media in their daily business operations. He notes that having a social media advocate who can integrate and motivate the use of social media within the corporation and in communications to the public is a crucial role in this new world.

“One of the challenges today is that most pharmaceutical companies don’t have leaders in the space to espouse the use of social media,” he says. “Social media needs to be integrated into regular operations. The industry needs to establish role model leaders in the digital space who have the skills and capabilities to build digital into the company’s daily routine.”

Jim advises the pharma industry to take a cautious approach towards social media. 

I would advise pharma companies do absolutely nothing until it is clear what the FDA requires,” he says. “I can’t see any advantage to engaging in social media when it is just too risky for pharma to respond. I think the industry should definitely take a wait-and-see approach to social media.”

“When it comes to safety monitoring or pharmacovigilance, the responsibility for a random comment could stretch as long as 40 years,” he says. “According to the FDA, a company is responsible for information throughout the life of a product, even when it becomes a generic. A company certainly doesn’t want to worry about an accidental posting forever.”

You can read the article in full here

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