Social media still uncharted for pharma

Drugmakers are tiptoeing cautiously into social media years after many other industries, at least in part because the FDA has yet to define the wherefores of drug marketing in this often-freewheeling arena. Yes, several pharma firms are using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace and more, as the Washington Post reports today. But the fact is, there are only handful of these social-media efforts underway, compared to a deluge of ads on TV and in print.

Still, the WaPo offers a quick-and-helpful rundown on some of the drugmakers' social-media campaigns. Merck's using Facebook to promote Gardasil, its cervical cancer vaccine; Bayer Aspirin has a Facebook page for women; and McNeil has an adults-with-ADHD awareness page. Then there's YouTube, which has hosted such promotional video as GlaxoSmithKline's restless-legs awareness film and spots for AstraZeneca's asthma med Symbicort. And MySpace, which Reckitt Benckiser has used to distribute advice on kicking the prescription painkiller habit.

These are all just drops in the pharma marketing bucket, though, as Eye on FDA discusses. Like many others in the drug-marketing arena, the blog is frustrated by FDA's short-and-vague guidance about social-media promotions. Sure, pharma might pile into social media with a vengeance--if companies weren't so afraid of stepping over some not-yet-precisely-defined regulatory line. Expect more of the same complaint until the agency comes forward with a real policy.

- read the Washington Post story
- get more from Eye on FDA