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US public backs pharma involvement in patient communities

Online adults support, by more than 2:1, industry participation in health communities

The US public would support a greater level of pharma industry participation in online health communities, according to a new study.

Manhattan Research found 42 per cent of online adults in the US thought pharma should be involved in communities, more than twice as many as the 19 per cent who disagreed with industry participation.

The eHealth analysts also found a significant number of people (39 per cent) were impartial on the issue.

Online communities pharmaceutical companies are already working with include PatientsLikeMe, which counts Novartis and UCB among its partners. The industry is also likely to watch with interest developments at Par8o, a forthcoming patient community from the founders of doctors' network Sermo.

Manhattan Research's new report found significantly higher interest in pharma involvement among certain online populations, presenting bigger opportunities for some pharmaceutical brands than others.

Chief among those who thought pharma ought to be active in communities were carers for patients with ADD/ADHD and bipolar disorder, followed by epilepsy caregivers, cystic fibrosis patients and rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Maureen Malloy, senior healthcare analyst at Manhattan Research, said: “The expectation for pharma to be active in health communities is quite high, particularly among certain disease states and the caregiver population.

“This emphasises why it's so important that the FDA builds on the guidance they recently issued for off-label discussions. Patients are calling and many brands are trying to determine how to respond.”

The US regulator's guidance came more than two years after its public hearing on the use of social media and the internet. But was only issued in draft form and restricted to how pharma and medical device companies can respond to unsolicited requests for information about off-label use.

Whether or not clearer rules are needed for what the FDA's guidance termed 'emerging electronic media', pharma will increasingly have to address the issues around these channels.

An earlier study from Manhattan Research showed consumer use of social media for health is on the rise – growing from 63m US adults accessing health-related user-generated content in 2008 to 107m in 2011.

18th January 2012

From: Marketing

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