J&J, AZ nix Facebook pages on commenting rule change

Pharmas are adjusting their social media strategies after Facebook took away drugmakers' ability disable commenting on some of their pages on the social media site today. And large drug companies such as Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and AstraZeneca ($AZN) have already decided to shutter some pages on Facebook altogether--rather than dealing with thorny issues that are likely to stem from the policy change, according to a Washington Post report.

Many were expecting Facebook to put its foot down about pharmas disabling the comment function on the website. In May, the social networking giant forced new disease awareness pages to allow commenting. And starting today, the same goes for many pharma company pages on Facebook, including those that focus on certain diseases or patient communities. However, Facebook will reportedly allow comments to be blocked on branded drug pages.

Facebook's policy change likely puts a snag in some pharma companies' social media efforts. On the one hand, social networking provides a new way to connect with patients and doctors. Yet social media platforms can also pose many challenges to drugmakers, including policing comments on the sites about adverse drug effects and misinformation about products or conditions. The industry has anxiously awaited guidelines from the FDA to help steer companies' social media strategies, which have typically lagged their peers in other industries.

"The regulatory environment and changes in Facebook functionality are creating a much more difficult environment for managing these kinds of pages," Bill Price, a J&J spokesman, told the Post. Facebook's rule changes have prompted J&J to shutter four of its pages, including two related to ADHD and others focused on rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

"Pharma as an industry is still a little bit leery of Facebook and social media as a whole," Jim Dayton, an emerging media consultant to drug companies, to ClickZ. He added that the Facebook rule change would likely cause further trepidation among drugmakers.

- read the piece in the Post
- see ClickZ's coverage
- here's what PharmaTimes wrote