Digital Pharma 2009

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Today is the first day of the 3rd Annual Digital Pharma conference.

I am privileged and honored to have been asked to chair this prestigious event and look forward to the sessions, discussions, and interactions with many esteemed colleagues and conference participants in the area of social media in pharma (a.k.a. social pharmers).

The official hashtag for this conference is: #DigPharm — please feel free follow the live-tweeting conversation and participate with your own questions/comments using the CoverItLive interface below:

Live Tweeting from Social Pharmer Unconference on 4/21

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If you’re wondering why I’ve been so lacking in my blog posts lately, it’s mostly because I’ve been really busy organizing and preparing for the Social Pharmer unconference on April 21st, 2009. The unconference is being held jointly with HealthCamp Boston and I’m pleased to say that — in just under four weeks — we’ve managed to pull together a very exciting event with over 110 registered attendees and eight sponsors (total for both events).

If you are attending either event, please do say hi when we are there. And if you can’t make the event, but are in the neighborhood, feel free to join us after for a HealthCamp, Social Pharmer, and Health 2.0 tweetup at the Cambirdge Brewing Company starting around 6pm– please RSVP here: .

You can also follow the live tweets from the event using the hashtag #SocPharm for Social Pharmer or #HCBos for HealthCamp Boston. I will be using CoverItLive (embedded below) to stream the #SocPharm tweets, so please feel free to follow along and join in the conversation via the CoverItLive interface.

Here’s the line up of great presentations for Social Pharmer:

  • 9:30am Fard Johnmar
    >> Achieving Openess – Transparency and Authenticity in Pharma.
  • 10:20am Michael Parks
    >> Developing a Framework for Blogging and Social Media in Pharma.
  • 11:10am John Murray
    >> Exploring The Realities Of FDA Regulation And Creative Opportunities In The Here and Now.
  • 12:00pm Lunch break
  • 1:00pm Steve Woodruff
    >> Key Business Needs That Can Be Addressed NOW with Social Media.
  • 2:00pm Josh Bernoff
    >> How To Do Social Applications At A Pharma company Without Getting Fired.
  • 3:00pm Jack Barrette & Julie Wittes Schlack
    >> The Patient Perspective — What Do Patients Want from Pharma Engagement?
  • 4:00pm Townhall Discussion
    >> How Can We Collaborate to Break Down Barriers to Social Media and Save Pharma’s Battered Rep?

And here’s the live stream from Social Pharmer…

Social Pharmer — A Social Media in Pharma Unconference (4/21 @ Cambridge, MA)

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UPDATE (APR 19, 2009) — Unfortunately, Mark Senak had to pull out of the conference due to a last minute work commitment. However, not 5 mins after I tweeted about it, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a tweet from John Murray (Regulatory Contracting and Consulting, LLC.) offering to speak about “Exploring the realities of FDA regulation and creative opportunities in the here and now“. Another great example of the power and speed of Twitter! Glad to have John on board for Social Pharmer — please see below for the updated agenda.


UPDATE (APR 8, 2009) — BIG NEWS… I am very excited to tell you that we have just added one more excellent speaker to the Social Pharmer roster — Josh Bernoff (@jbernoff / co-author, Groundswell) will present “How To Do Social Applications at a Pharma Company Without Getting Fired“. More specifically, Josh will present data on medical conditions and the social activity of those who have them, and show a range of social strategies that apply based on this data and the risk tolerance of the company“.

Over the last few months, Josh has been researching and analyzing the adoption and implementation of social media programs in pharma/healthcare and is just about to publish a Forrester research report on the topic, so this presentation will be the first time that he will be sharing his insights from this research — HOW EXCITING!


I am pleased to announce that HealthCamp Boston and Social Pharmer (Social Media in Pharma) will be taking place in Cambridge, MA on April 21st. If you’re involved or interested in how Social Media and Web 2.0 can facilitate and transform the BioPharma and healthcare industry, then you should definitely consider attending this event…

What’s a “HealthCamp” and a “Social Pharmer”, you say?

Well, HealthCamp is a barcamp/unconference style event dedicated to “…look at how the HealthCare sector can and will be transformed through Social Media, Open Standardsand Web 2.0 technologies. HealthCamp supports the Health 2.0 initiatives“.

So in that same vein, I’ve collaborated with the folks organizing HealthCamp Boston, to jointly hold an event that is tailored more towards the BioPharma industry, which I’ve called Social Pharmer: Sowing the Seeds of Social Media in BioPharma and Healthcare.

The vision for Social Pharmer is to have an open and honest discussion with our peers who share a common passion for engaging in Social Media within this highly regulated industry. While there will be presentations by some key practitioners and thought leaders in this area (see list below), the idea is not just for attendees to to listen, but also to intereact and have be part of the presenation — everyone’s a participant in an unconference; presenter or attendee alike!

Ultimately, the aim is not just to discuss issues being led by the presenters; but more importatnly, to allow what we learn and discuss during the course of the day to guide us in a “townhall discussion” at the end of the event, where we can try to develop some kind of basic “standard of practice” that will provide a framework/guideline that engenders “Social Pharming” in our industry.

Here’s the current agenda for Social Pharmer…

8:30am Breakfast and Registration

9:00am HealthCamp Boston & Social Pharmer Organizers (NEW)
>> HealthCamp Boston & Social Pharmer Official Kickoff
9:15am Shwen/Jack
>> Social Pharmer Opening Remarks
Fard Johnmar (UPDATE TIME)
>> Achieving Openess: Transparency and Autheticity in Pharma.
Michael Parks (UPDATE TIME)
>> Developing a Corporate Framework for Blogging and Social Media in Pharma.
11:10am John Murray (NEW)
>> Exploring The Realities of FDA Regulation and Creative Opportunities in the Here and Now.

12:00pm Lunch break

1:00pmSteve Woodruff (UPDATE TIME)
>> Key Business Needs that can be addressed NOW with Social Media.
Josh Bernoff
How To Do Social Applications at a Pharma Company Without Getting Fired.
Jack Barrette & Julie Wittes Schlack (UPDATE SPEAKER)
>> The Patient Perspective: What Do Patients Want from Pharma Engagement?
4:00pm Jack/Fard:Townhall Discussion
>> How Can We Collaborate to Breakdown Barriers to Social Media
>> and Save Pharma’s Battered Rep?

5:00pm Social Pharma adjourns

…Continue discussions at Cambridge Brewing Company (1 Kendall Sq # 100, Cambridge, MA 02139) (NEW)
…Please RSVP via Twtvite

I really hope to see you at Social Pharmer and/or HealthCamp Boston!

A Week (or 2) of Industry Launches: YouTube,Web 2.0, MedPedia, and Twitter…

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Over the last 2 weeks or so — including the time I was away at ePharma Summit — there were quite a few interesting launches and developments that I haven’t gotten around to blogging about yet, so in the spirit of catching up, I thought I’d summarize them here…

AZ and Sanofi Aventis launch YouTube channels


As mentioned in a previous post, YouTube seems to be the “channel of choice” (pardon the pun) when it comes to pharma adoption of new media. So I guess it should come as no surprise that two more big pharma’s launched YouTube Channels last week…

Firstly, AstraZeneca launched the My Asthma Story YouTube Channel, which complements it’s Symibcort-focused My Asthma Story Website and encourages people who have been “diagnosed with asthma, and prescribed SYMBICORT” to submit a video clip of their asthma story (see submission guidelines) — “Everyone with asthma has a story to tell. We’d like to hear yours“.

Also, Sanofi Aventis launched the Go Insulin YouTube Channel, to complement their Website, which features “insulin success stories” (video clips). Unlike AZ however, Sanofi doesn’t mention/promote any products on the page (just the company logo) and doesn’t asking for patient submissions at this time. Compared to the AZ site, Sanofi has also done a really nice job in designing the YouTube and websites – great visual appeal, IMHO.

The interesting thing about these two launches is that they both took a similar approach of using a traditional website to complement a YouTube channel and drive their audiences bi-directionally between the two; almost like the YouTube channel was just an extension of their video-filled website, but obviously with much greater mass appeal and reach. But what’s even more interesting to me is that (to my knowledge) MyAstmaStory is the first pharma YouTube channel to carry a product brand (Symbicort), which in my mind, indicates that pharma is getting more comfortable with this medium as a promotional channel, including their legal and regulatory teams.

With online video being the fastest growing medium for consumer consumption for several years in a row, and Google’s smart moves to enable YouTube channel administrators to control some of the “social features” (e.g. comments, embedding, etc.) , I’m not at all surprised to see more and more pharma companies jump on the YouTube bandwagon… In fact, I only expect to see more.

For more details on the two launches, read the EyeOnFDA Blog by Mark Senak, who stays abreast of health and pharma YouTube activities and even aggregates these health/pharma related YouTube videos on his own EyeOnFDA YouTube Channel.

Feds Also Adopting Social Media

Not to be outdone by all the pharma activity on YouTube, it looks like federal agencies — like HHS, CDC, FDA — are also starting to get on the new/social media train. Firstly, according to

The federal government is on the verge of reaching an agreement with YouTube that would allow agencies to make official use of the popular video-sharing service. A coalition of federal agencies led by the General Service Administration’s Office of Citizen Services has been negotiating… on new terms that would allow agencies to establish their own channels on the site.

For some interesting commentary on this, read this EyeOnFDA blog post — here’s a quote:

Adding YouTube to the communications menu of the federal government has a number of ramifications. First, one hopes that they do it right. CDC and FDA are examples of two agencies who are there, but their channels are irregular and the editorial framework is unclear. FDA, in particular, has a bunch of channels and it is difficult to know what will be posted where.

And if you think that’s as progressive as the Feds get, then think again… As it turns out, they’ve been involved with Web 2.0 and Social Media for a while now. For example, the HHS/CDC had a booth at the Podcast and New Media Expo in 2007, the CDC had an open discussion focusing on Social Networks, Blogs and other Web 2.0 Apps in 2008, and Miguel Goemz and Fred Smith from HHS even spoke at the 2008 New Media Expo about their use of Web 2.0 for (see interview at bottom of post here).

More recently however, it seems like the Feds have become even more active in the social media space, with the launch of a Twitter account for FDA recalls (@FDArecalls) and even an active Twitter representative in the form of Andrew P. Wilson (@AndrewPWilson), who is a “Member of HHS social media team” (according to his profile). Who knew the HHS had a social media team??? Anyway, despite all that, nothing could have prepared me for this… the Social Media Tools for Consumers and Partners – a webpage that describes all their scoial media activities, including blogs, email subscriptions, Health e-cards, mobile info, and online video. Wow!

For a great take on the whole Feds and social media thing, read Jonathan Richman‘s Dose of Digital blog post (and follow the links to previous stuff he’s written). He’s got great insight and commentary on the entire situation.

Medpedia Launches

Earlier this week, Medpedia — a new medical wiki — was launched with the support of its founding partners: Havard Medical School, Stanford Medical School, University of California Berkely School of Public Health, and University of Michigan Medical School. According to the website…

The Medpedia Project is a long-term, worldwide project to evolve a new model for sharing and advancing knowledge about health, medicine and the body among medical professionals and the general public. This model is founded on providing a free online technology platform that is collaborative, interdisciplinary and transparent. Read more about the model.

Users of the platform include physicians, consumers, medical and scientific journals, medical schools, research institutes, medical associations, hospitals, for-profit and non-profit organizations, expert patients, policy makers, students, non-professionals taking care of loved ones, individual medical professionals, scientists, etc.

If Wikipedia is any inidcation of how powerful and successful a well designed and maintained wiki can be, then I have to agree with Mark Senak’s post about the importance of Medpedia in the future, where it may become tops in organic Google search for medical and health related terms, just as we seem to see now with many Wikipedia definitions

The question is: Will the right people be engaged and willing enough to spend time “maintaining the Medpedia garden” in order for it to become the dominant medical/health reference of the future? Perhaps… I think it definitely stands a chance just looking at the number of Health Professional articles on Google’s Knol and videos on YouTube. Read EyeOnFDA’s report on this which also has a great audio interview with the founder and head of Medpedia, James Currier.

Pharma’s Tweeting…

Twitter has been growing like Jack’s beanstalk lately. In fact, it grew by 752% in 2008. So it’s probably no surprise that a lot of companies are also jumping on board, including pharma and biotech. Up till recently, the only two pharma’s I knew of that use Twitter as official communications channel are @novartis and @Boehringer. I also recently discovered that AstraZeneca (US) has a Twitter account (@AstraZenecaUS), though their udpates seem to be pretty sparse at the time of writing. In addition to all that, J&J also recently launched an official account, @JNJcomm, just last week. Previously, Marc Monseau (Editor of had a personal twitter account, so it was not an official channel.

While there’s not as much control on Twitter account settings as YouTube has for it’s channels, I can only imagine that more pharma companies are going to be jumping on board the Twitter-train sooner rather than later. How they use it to engage, on the other hand, is going to vary greatly from company to company. At the very least, I see companies setting up accounts as “listening posts”, but others may choose to engage, like @boehringer does in an informal manner. Whatever the case, Twitter is fast becoming the new dominant space for listening and/or engaging with the community.

2009 ePharmaSummit: FEB 9-11, 2009 — $200 Discount Code

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I’m not even ready for the end of 2008 yet, never mind starting to plan for 2009. However, knowing that the new year will be upon us before we know it, I thought it might be prudent to start thinking (and budgeting for) which conferences I might want to attend next year…

One of the key conferences to kick off 2009 that looks poised to be a great event for new and social media in pharma, is the 2009 ePharma Summit which will be held in Philadelphia, PA from FEB 9-11.

— If you’re interested in attending, IIR (the conference organizer) has kindly offered Med 2.0 readers a $200 discount, by using the following priority code: XP1406SG.

Please contact Felipe Alexandre if you have any problems with the code or questions about the conference.

Browsing through the speaker list, there appears to be a good number of really good speakers (that I am familiar with) within the space of new/social media in pharma and consequently, lots of interesting content.

A definite highlight for me and certainly a “non-traditional, outward looking” speaker for pharma, is Josh Bernoff (co-author of Groundswell), who will be presenting “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies“. Very much looking forward to hearing him speak and meeting him in-person.

Moreover, I am also extremely pleased and honored to have been invited to participate in this conference — I’ll be part of the following panel, which will be moderated by Jack Barrette (CEO, WEGO health), whom I recently had the privilege of sharing a panel with at the recent eComm08 conference as well:

Social Media, Blogs and User Generated Content: What’s Working Today, What Will Work Tomorrow?
Back by popular demand, our panel of industry “All-Stars” with a provocative look at the dissolving walls between pharma, patients and physicians, what pharma marketers are doing about it and the obstacles and opportunities that lie ahead in a world where the consumer has more control today than ever. discussion topics include:

  • C to C, Word of Mouth and Viral Marketing
  • Social media – who is really doing it in pharma?
  • Surprise: social media communities don’t hate Pharma
  • Gain a deeper understanding of online media opportunities/social networking
  • The role of Consumer Opinion Leaders in social media influence
  • Web 2.0: A Tactical (and doable!) plan for pharma marketers
  • User-generated content: the smart Pharma marketers don’t want you to know they are already there
  • Breaking the Med Legal strangle-hold on Web Communities – getting to a Social Media “yes” within the archaic legal environment
  • Case studies on using social media programs that directly support strategy, objectives and client goals. Should include social networking, video, blogs, banners, podcasts
  • Using social networking to build relationships with customers
  • Case studies in pharma usage of web 2.0 – Update on social networking sites identifying successful revenue models

Jack Barrette, CEO, WEGO Health

Louis Sanquini, Director, Azelastine Franchise, meda Pharmaceuticals
Kevin H. Nalty, Marketing Director, Dermatology, Merck & Company, Inc.
Raj Amin, CEO, Healthination

If you are planning on attending this conference, leave me a comment or send me an email and I’ll look forward to meeting you there. And if you can’t make it, look out for the live tweets from Steve Woodruff (who I’m sure will be live-tweeting and maybe even live-blogging) and myself. Steve’s going to be on the same panel as well.

How Pharma Can Leverage Consumer Generated Media – Nielsen White Paper

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I don’t know how I missed this one, but thanks to the Pharma 2.0 blog and someone I follow on Twitter (sorry — I don’t remember who) for alerting me to a recently published (August 2008) EXCELLENT white paper by Nielsen Online on:

Listening to Consumers in a Highly Regulated Environment — How Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Can Leverage Consumer-Generated Media” (registration required).

Melissa Davies (Nielsen Analyst and author of the article. Nice blog, too!) does a great job providing an overview of some fundamental issues that pharma struggles with when it comes to Social Media and UGC (user generated content). Chief among those is, of course, the issue of Adverse Event (AE) reporting, which is a key focus of this paper and is nicely called out with some great information.

She also goes on to provide many examples on how and where pharma can start with social media; all of which I completely agree with and some which are very similar to the suggestions I made in my presentation on Can Pharma Make a Business Case for Social Media.

Here are some excerpts from the whitepaper…

Any pharmaceutical company considering an entry into the social media space will naturally wonder about discussion of adverse events. Are consumers sharing information online that would indicate an adverse experience? Does social media monitoring trigger the AE reporting requirement? At this writing, there is no FDA guideline or regulation that specifically covers the content of online discussion in a way that is different from reporting AE information derived from any other source.

Current FDA guidelines give four parameters for submitting information about adverse experiences: the pharmaceutical company should have knowledge of (i) an identifiable patient; (ii) an identifiable reporter; (iii) a specific drug or biologic involved in the event; and (iv) an adverse event or fatal outcome…

In a recent Nielsen analysis of 500 healthcare-related messages posted online across multiple disease categories, Nielsen’s BuzzMetrics analysts found only one message that incorporated the information needed to meet all four of the FDA’s AE reporting requirements…

Most online discussion communities discourage the use of personally identifi able information. This is especially true within healthcare communities, where personal privacy is even more carefully guarded… In the recent analysis of 500 messages, Nielsen’s BuzzMetrics analysts found that 56 messages (11%) contained identifying information that could be used to reach out to an individual to follow up on a possible AE report…

It is clear that a pharmaceutical company that aggressively monitors social media may pick up the occasional AE within patient/caregiver online discussion. Nielsen Online’s experience is that this happens very rarely, with a volume that is entirely manageable within companies’ broader AE monitoring programs.

After the discussion on regulatory concerns and AE reporting, Davies goes on to present some great suggestions for “The Benefits of Listening” and some great ideas for “Getting Started”. Here are some of the subject headers for those ideas…

Listen to the Conversation

  • Head online to a discussion board and start reading
  • Conduct an online search on the brand
  • Visit Wikipedia and see what information has been posted about the brand
  • Check for consumer-created videos about the brand

Facilitate the Conversation

  • Go where the audience is
  • Provide materials that will help patients better understand their condition and its treatment
  • Share condition information or how-to’s for treatment
  • Incorporate the voices of actual patients through personal stories on the brand site
  • Allow and encourage patients to link to these resources from other sites

Join the Conversation

  • Consider starting a blog
  • Appoint someone from the brand team to take an active role in online discussion

As you can see, many of these concepts/ideas are similar to what I presented in my slides as well, which is really great, since it shows that we are in agreement and share the same vision for where Pharma needs to head with Social Media.

Well, this one is definitely getting filed as a MUST READ. Great article, Melissa Davies!!! Looking forward to seeing more Social Media in Pharma articles.

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