Status update: Pharma skeptical of social media

Social media may have transformed other industries' approach to the world, but not this one. A new report from Deloitte quantifies what we've all seen anecdotally: While some drug companies are using social media, many more aren't, and more than a third don't plan to.

As the Wall Street Journal Health Blog reports, Deloitte found that only 41 percent of life sciences companies use online networks to distribute information or to gather it. Slightly more than one-fifth of the respondents say they do plan to tiptoe into the social-media world. But 38 percent say they don't.

Deloitte says social media poses "significant" risks to drug makers, especially when companies use it to distribute info. It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a drug R&D specialist) to know why that is; the FDA has serious rules about drug marketing, and it's all too easy to run afoul of them in the social-media space, where brevity is not only essential, but in some cases, mandatory.

And given that the agency hasn't issued guidance specifically for social media, pharma is driving blind, at least for now. Unfortunately, the drugmakers who talked to Deloitte aren't optimistic that FDA guidance will help much. More than half expect plenty of confusion even after those rules make their debut.

- get the WSJ Health Blog post