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Facebook Forces Pharma to Show Comments

The social media site enforces its rule that pages should allow social interaction through comments, even on drug company pages.

By | August 17, 2011

FLICKR, IDOVERMANI

Facebook enabled commenting on some drug companies pages on Monday (Aug 15)—a move that is forcing some to close their pages altogether, while other reassess their comment moderation policies.

Most Facebook pages have commenting, but the site allowed pharma companies to turn off that feature because the companies might be liable for inappropriate or misleading comments in ways other industries are not. Drug companies are obligated to act on comments about adverse events, for example, and because commenters may share non-expert medical advice that could have the appearance of being promoted by the company, many preferred to shutter the comments section altogether. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, pharma was just about the only industry on Facebook with such comment-blocking privileges.

The new policy does not mean that all pharma pages will be open, however. Facebook will still allow companies to block comments on the pages set up for specific drugs, but commenting will be allowed on the main company page.  But even for those pages, there are at least two real reasons why comments are a problem for pharma companies, according to BNET. First, drug companies have been waiting for guidance on the use of social media from the FDA for two years. They currently rely on regulations about communicating with the public that were relevant back when print and television were the standard modality. Second, while companies could monitor comments with available software, many appear hesitant to devoting ongoing resources to social media, and resistant to making the pages more of an educational platform than a marketing campaign.

Some companies that have closed pages include Amgen, Bayer, Astra Zeneca's Take on Depression page, and two of Johnson & Johnson's pages on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. Notably, Sanofi, whose page has 66,000 "likes," and Pfizer have kept their pages open, according to the Washington Post.

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