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US think tank suggests ‘social guiding principles’ for pharma

Digital Health Coalition hopes to spark industry debate on how best to approach social media and user-generated content

A US digital health think tank has produced what it hopes will serve as best practice guidance for pharma on social media and user-generated content.

The industry-backed Digital Health Coalition (DHC) said it was driven to produce its Social Guiding Principles by the continued absence of guidelines from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The regulator held a two-day public hearing on pharma's use of social media and the internet in November 2009 but, apart from some direction on how to treat off-label information requests, has yet to publish guidance on the area.

“Regardless of what the FDA does, we're going to have a document that we think most of the industry can use immediately,” said DHC co-founder, and former president of Manhattan Research, Joe Farris.

The DHC's seven principles for 'regulated healthcare companies' are:

1) Companies should endeavour to participate in social media as a means to promote public health, improve patient outcomes and facilitate productive patient/physician relationships

2) Companies are not responsible for user-generated content online that they do not control

3) Companies have a responsibility to report adverse events they become aware of and should follow the FDA's existing reporting rules

4) Employees should disclose their company relationship when posting comments/content or engaging in an online conversation that relates to a company product or relevant healthcare issue

5) Companies should endeavour to respond to questions on sites they control within a reasonable period of time, and implement reasonable measures to enable timely responses to crisis and emergency situations

6) Companies should endeavour to make reasonable efforts to correct misinformation that is factually incorrect

7) Companies should endeavour to appoint employee(s) tasked with the role of 'patient liaison' who are focused on representing the best interests of the patient online

Read the Social Guiding Principles in full.

There is much in the principles that's open to further discussion – how far should companies go to correct misinformation on sites like Wikipedia or blogs, for example – but that's the point, and the Digital Health Coalition is seeking industry feedback on its suggested principles.

The Coalition was set up last year to provide a “collective public voice and national public forum” for discussions of digital and electronic healthcare marketing.

Its industry partners include Novartis, Sanofi US and Roche Diagnostics and its advisory board includes individuals from AstraZeneca, Lilly, Merck and Roche.

7th February 2012

From: Marketing

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