The blogopharmasphere?

This year has been a busy one for Big Pharma: Billion dollar legal settlements, game-changing mergers, and labor cutbacks of epic proportions have kept the industry (and industry watchers) off balance for much of 2009. But all the turmoil hasn't stopped a few of Big Pharma's giants from communicating directly with the internet-browsing public through official blogs of their own. The newest addition to the Big Pharma blogosphere is AstraZeneca's linkurl:__AZ Health Connections__,;http://www.azh

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Nov 9, 2009
This year has been a busy one for Big Pharma: Billion dollar legal settlements, game-changing mergers, and labor cutbacks of epic proportions have kept the industry (and industry watchers) off balance for much of 2009. But all the turmoil hasn't stopped a few of Big Pharma's giants from communicating directly with the internet-browsing public through official blogs of their own. The newest addition to the Big Pharma blogosphere is AstraZeneca's linkurl:__AZ Health Connections__,;http://www.azhealthconnections.com/ which just threw its hat into the ring in the middle of last month and has about five posts archived on the site. "Health affects us all," the first entry, posted on the 16th of October reads, "and we feel it's important that we join the community of doctors, nurses, patients, policymakers, pundits and consumers who are engaging in constructive debate and conversation." But in __AZ Heath Connections__' latest linkurl:entry,;http://www.azhealthconnections.com/azhealthconnections/2009/11/pharmexecblogsandrew-sheivachmanhas-publishedone-of-the-first-stories-related-to-the-launch-of-our-blog-httpblogph.html posted last Friday, the blog finds itself...
t the industry (and industry watchers) off balance for much of 2009. But all the turmoil hasn't stopped a few of Big Pharma's giants from communicating directly with the internet-browsing public through official blogs of their own. The newest addition to the Big Pharma blogosphere is AstraZeneca's linkurl:__AZ Health Connections__,;http://www.azhealthconnections.com/ which just threw its hat into the ring in the middle of last month and has about five posts archived on the site. "Health affects us all," the first entry, posted on the 16th of October reads, "and we feel it's important that we join the community of doctors, nurses, patients, policymakers, pundits and consumers who are engaging in constructive debate and conversation." But in __AZ Heath Connections__' latest linkurl:entry,;http://www.azhealthconnections.com/azhealthconnections/2009/11/pharmexecblogsandrew-sheivachmanhas-publishedone-of-the-first-stories-related-to-the-launch-of-our-blog-httpblogph.html posted last Friday, the blog finds itself defending its approach from critics in the already-robust health care blogosphere. In a post titled linkurl:"AZ's First Corporate Blog Falls Flat,";http://blog.pharmexec.com/2009/11/04/az%E2%80%99s-first-corporate-blog-falls-flat/ __PharmExecBlog__ blogger Andrew Sheivachman dings the AZ blog for failing to mention specific drug products, toeing the company line in posts on general topics such as linkurl:health care reform;http://www.azhealthconnections.com/azhealthconnections/2009/11/the-health-care-reform-america-needs-our-view-for-a-healthier-nation.html and linkurl:"the importance of medical innovation,";http://www.azhealthconnections.com/azhealthconnections/2009/11/david-brennan-emphasizes-the-importance-of-medical-innovation.html and having a linkurl:comments policy;http://www.azhealthconnections.com/azhealthconnections/comments-policy.html that dissuades readers from posting controversial comments. "Strict corporate control by pharma companies engaged in social media essentially destroys what makes the space so dynamic," Sheivachman wrote in an linkurl:entry;http://blog.pharmexec.com/2009/11/04/az%E2%80%99s-first-corporate-blog-falls-flat/ posted last week -- "the ability for users to express controversial information and personal opinions." "If content can't generate the type of product discourse pharma companies are looking for, perhaps a new approach to social media is needed to educate customers in an ethical and productive way," Sheivachman added. "We are presented with some unique challenges when it comes to mentioning specific products or disease states on our blog," Earl Whipple, the AZ blog's editor linkurl:shot back,;http://www.azhealthconnections.com/azhealthconnections/2009/11/pharmexecblogsandrew-sheivachmanhas-publishedone-of-the-first-stories-related-to-the-launch-of-our-blog-httpblogph.html "but despite the critical [__PharmExecBlog__] headline, it's also wrong for anyone to assume that this is how we want things to be." Whipple pointed readers to AZ's corporate Web site and an information center phone number provided in the blog's comment policy page for information on specific drugs or products. AZ is not the first Big Pharma company to test the blogoshpere's waters. Johnson & Johnson has maintained its linkurl:__JNJ BTW__;http://jnjbtw.com/ blog since June 2007, and GlaxoSmithKline's linkurl:__More Than Medicine Blog__;http://www.morethanmedicine.us.gsk.com/blog/ has been posting entries since this January. The coverage on these two older sites seems to be an amalgamation of dressed down press releases and anecdotal PR with more whimsical stories (see GSK's linkurl:post;http://www.morethanmedicine.us.gsk.com/blog/2009/04/harry-kalas-1936-2009.html about the passing of legendary Phillies color man Harry Kalas) thrown in just so readers remember that these are blogs. The main unifying feature of all three Big Pharma blogs, however, seems to be the lack of community participation that is a hallmark of the most successful blogs on the web. Posts on the three sites rarely attract more than 3-4 comments. All this pharma blogging, along with other recent industry linkurl:incursions;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/55631/ into the world of social networking, comes on the eve of a linkurl:public hearing;http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-22618.htm being held this Thursday and Friday by the US Food and Drug Administration to discuss the promotion of FDA-approved products using the internet and social networking. "We applaud this decision and look forward to their engagement," wrote Whipple on __AZ Health Connections__. Some analysts say the FDA may lighten up on some marketing regulations that might be preventing drug companies from increased engagement in Internet-based social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Pharma on Facebook?;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/55631/
[May 2009]*linkurl:Patient Empowerment or Pandora's Box?;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/15487/
[23rd May 2005]

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