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Drug companies lose protections on Facebook, some decide to close pages

  1. Pondlife
    Relationship status: “It’s Complicated.”

    Facebook and the pharmaceutical industry have had an uneasy partnership in recent years. Many drug companies didn’t join the site until Facebook gave them a privilege that others do not have — blocking the public’s ability to openly comment on a page Wall.

    But that’s about to change.

    In a reversal by Facebook, most drug company pages will have to have open Walls starting Monday.

    Companies are worried that open Walls mean risks, and many are reconsidering their engagement on Facebook. On Friday, AstraZeneca, which sells the antidepressant Seroquel, shut down a page devoted to depression. Johnson & Johnson said it will close four of its pages Monday. Other companies said they will monitor their pages more closely once the changes take effect.

    The industry is concerned that users might write about bad side effects, promote off-label use or make inappropriate statements about a product, and that the comments could raise concerns from government regulators.

    Facebook would not say what specifically prompted its change of heart. Andrew Noyes, manager of public policy communications for Facebook, said in an e-mail, “We think these changes will help encourage an authentic dialogue on pages.”

    Facebook will allow companies to continue to block Wall comments on specific prescription product pages, but those are a minority of pharmaceutical company pages. Most of the open pages would be focused on companies themselves or on disease or patient-specific communities, which then have ties to the companies’ prescription products.

    AstraZeneca’s “Take on Depression” page, which closed Friday, had more than 1,100 “likes” — people following the page and its updates.

    “We’re very strongly committed to social media, but we have to make sure that the amount of time and resources spent on [monitoring it for problems] is appropriate,” said Tony Jewell, an AstraZeneca spokesman.

    Johnson & Johnson will shut down two pages focused on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — ADHD Allies and ADHD Moms — along with pages focused on rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. Combined, the four pages have more than 40,000 likes. Johnson & Johnson sells the ADHD drug Concerta, psoriasis drug Stelara and arthritis drugs Simponi and Remicade.

    ‘Difficult environment’

    “The regulatory environment and changes in Facebook functionality are creating a much more difficult environment for managing these kinds of pages,” said Bill Price, a Johnson & Johnson spokesman.

    Facebook has become an increasingly popular destination for patient communities, with many shifting over the past couple years from message boards and other Web sites to pages hosted by companies, according to Lisa Gualtieri, an assistant professor at the Tufts School of Medicine who studies social media and health.

    Many companies hadn’t joined Facebook until the past year and a half, according to Steve Woodruff, a social-media consultant. “Pharmaceutical companies have been at the shallow end of the social-media pool,” Woodruff said, “because it’s such a highly regulated and conservative industry.”



  1. alienesseINspace
    Great article post!!

    Personally, I like to see people being able to openly speak their opinions on the pages of drug companies. Maybe people are "helped" by the presence of their Facebook pages, but really, people should not rely on pharmaceutical companies social networks for drug support and information. The companies should offer information via RSS feed to people can subscribe. Also, the companies have plenty of money to create support forums on their own domains for socializing and networking.

    Just my 2 cents.
  2. veritas.socal
    swim agrees. these people...who have MUCH to fear from people posting side effects on FACEBOOK...they shouldnt get special priviliges. if they want the exposure that facebook gives, they should take the good and the bad...its bad enuff they can remove posts fast(but too late, siwm guesses).

    an aside, swim is at the library. there are 12 computers in use, 4 are on facebook( swim sees). thats at this second. think of the exposure facebook REALLY gives. swim just felt the depth when he saw that.(and the facebook documentary.lol)
  3. Joben
    Great article!

    I love Facebook's decision. In a world seemingly ruled by Big Pharma ( ;) ) it's great the public may actually get a chance to openly criticize these companies and have it viewed by their peers. That is, if any of these companies decide to remain on Facebook following the change.

    Even if they do, chances are they will have a computer tech whose sole task is to moderate the page and delete any unflattering comments one may post about their respective product. Besides that, I'm sure there will be individuals paid to post positive comments on the companies pages.

    It seems like Big Pharma is constantly being handed privileges which individual people could never gain. Whether it be related to advertising, lawsuits, tax-breaks, lobbying, or any other example on the vast list of exceptions they are given.

    Who would have known Facebook would have given in to them at some point also? As far as changing the rules, better late than never.
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