Ambien made me racist? No way, Sanofi tells Roseanne, and its tweet goes viral

The head of North American communications for Sanofi woke up Wednesday to the news that actress Roseanne Barr had blamed a recent racist tweet on the use of the company's insomnia drug, Ambien. But Sanofi wasn’t having it.

Angela Bechan, the head of comms, gathered her team for a quick huddle. And by 9:57 a.m., with its own tweet from @SanofiUS, it had responded to Barr’s charge that late-night "ambien tweeting" was responsible for her remarks:

“People of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world. While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”

Bechan said the internal team wrote the tweet together and had it approved by medical legal review as they would any social media post, albeit in a considerably shorter period of time.

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By the time Sanofi’s tweet went out on Wednesday morning, Barr had actually deleted the Ambien comment and another one that mentioned the drug, but her words were already out and the Twitterverse knew it. Overwhelmingly positive remarks and kudos poured in regarding Sanofi’s response.

In less than two hours, it had more than 60,000 likes and 25,000 retweets, but is now likely well beyond those numbers at publish time. As momentum swelled during those first two hours, a trial refresh after only one minute tracked 600 more likes and 130 additional retweets.

“Ultimately at Sanofi we felt that using our medicines as a crutch for bad behavior is unacceptable. We have diversity and inclusion as a core belief here. We value diversity very much and we don’t feel there is any plausible defense for racism. We decided that we needed to stand by our beliefs and respond,” Bechan said.

Approving “burn” and “shade” commentary poured in by the thousands on Twitter. Shauna Wright, a social media guru who tweets as @goldenstateblonde, retweeted Sanofi’s post, adding, “The maker of Ambien just announced its newest side effect is sick burns.”

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Another commenter, @stemcellpartner, wrote under the original post about the value of a corporate entity weighing in: “Dagger! From a big company no less. I am shocked the lawyers or accountants allowed it. The ‘stay out of it, not our fight’ crowd always wins but yet not this time. Is this what hope looks like?”

Sanofi likely won’t have any additional responses to Barr’s comment, Bechan said, noting its original response tweet stands for itself, but she did say Sanofi will continue to monitor this situation and social media in general as it typically does for posts that require a response.