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Archive for July, 2009

This week, I attended two conferences relating to pharma and eCommunications/Social Media. The MDRx conference (sponsored by IIR) was in Philly, and the Social Communications and Healthcare Case Studies and Roundtable event was held in NYC.

Instead of writing my usual post-event description, I decided to just spill my guts a bit on where things are at with pharma and social media, having participated in these events and interacted with so many people this week. In short: we’re making progress! Let me take you on a brief retrospective tour, then give some current perspectives…

Retrospective

is this thing onWhen I started pharma-blogging three years ago, as a cornerstone of launching my consulting business, it was lonely out on the Internets. A handful or two of us were blogging pharma (and only a few of the original crowd have survived), there was NO participation by people within pharma companies, Twitter was a distant dream, and Facebook was not yet mainstream. Even a year and a half ago, when I first started on Twitter, there was hardly anyone on that platform with a pharma focus.

All that has changed.

Nine months ago, I ran into fellow networker Shwen Gwee at a Digital Pharma conference, when he turned to me in the back of the room and asked, “Are you tweeting?” At that point, I had just begun live-blogging and live-tweeting pharma events, which was a novelty way back in 2008. Shwen and I became fast friends and pharma conference collaborators. In fact, this spring Shwen launched the first Social Pharmer conference in Boston, where we experimented with a more informal format, and a number of those who are trying to do pioneer work in social media attended. Still, as of early 2009, it was pretty easy to identify and list all the active pharma bloggers and Twitter users (<–that link is a good starting point, by the way, if you’re just getting started in pharma social networking).

bdi_tweetup_smIt’s not so lonely anymore. In fact, spontaneously during the BDI conference, a bunch of us planned a post-event lunch tweetup, and about 15 came in order to get to know one another better, socialize, and brainstorm. And that is one of the main goals of social networking. SOCIAL. NETWORKING.

Now, it’s getting hard to keep track, because so many individuals and companies are rushing into the social networking space. And I say: FANTASTIC! Join us – and if you need some help getting started, here is an e-book I put together for just that purpose, loaded with links and resources (including a pharma-specific Appendix).

Perspective

Ray_Kerins_smWe have a long way to go, but now, it’s not just consultants and agencies talking about it. Companies are jumping in, taking baby steps, learning. Ray Kerins of Pfizer (<–that’s him) gave a very encouraging presentation at the BDI event about the transformation going on in their global communications group. He’s someone to watch. Boehringer is using their Twitter account to interact, and Brad Pendergraph of Novartis is one of the most active and interesting pharma folks on Twitter.

In fact, if you want to know almost everyone who is doing stuff in social media, and where all the case studies are, leading agency thinker Jon Richman keeps a continually-updated wiki outlining the pharma social media space. Highly recommended.

One of the things to bear in mind is that, while the public case studies are still relatively slim, there is a lot going on behind-the-scenes with networked communications approaches that aren’t being much talked about. Internal blogs and social networks. KOL communities. Resource portals and discussion groups. Yes, we are all frustrated with the slow pace of regulatory comfort-level when it comes to new technology, and there’s a lot of fear abroad. but things are happening. We should start our considerations, not with ROI calculations and regulatory handcuff fears, but with two main questions: What are the needs of our audience? and, How can we add value?

I’ve seen all this before. There was the same slow uptake with Web 1.0 technology. And with eLearning. But eventually, we hit a tipping point where people stop asking “if?” and start asking “how?”

We’re getting there. We’re making progress.

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I’m at a conference on Physician Relationship Management (MDRx). As usual, we’re talking e-marketing, social media, and fear. If  you know pharma, you know that anything new is embraced with enthusiastic expressions of…terror.

Often, the starting points for these discussions are the following:

    1. How are we going to do this and keep clean on the regulatory front?
    2. What’s the quickly-demonstrable ROI?
    3. Risk. Risk. Risk.
    4. Who else is doing it?

So, of course, these starting points doom the participants – who often are in short-term marketing rotations – to think about “safety in tactics,” rather than strategic opportunities.

Careful – you might shoot your eye out.

There are structural reasons in this industry for this mentality. However, if we’re going to make any progress, I’d like to suggest that anyone thinking about Networked Communications strategies in pharma START with only two perspectives:

    1. What are the needs of our audience(s)?
    2. How can we add value?

That’s it. Begin the initial discussions there and leave all the other stuff for the last 5 minutes, or you’ll never approach it with an opportunity mindset. Now I know that all these other concerns have to be addressed, but that’s like choosing your outfit only after putting on handcuffs and chains.

That’s my e-Vent at this event. Your thoughts?

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FDA to Zeltia: NO – An FDA advisory committee has handed Spain’s Zeltia a crushing blow, deciding against a combination therapy that includes its lead cancer drug Yondelis (trabectedin) by a vote of 14 to 1. The news cost Zeltia 35 percent of its share price…more

FDA to Shire: Fast-track – Shire plc, the global specialty biopharmaceutical company, announces it has received Fast Track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for velaglucerase alfa, its enzyme replacement therapy in development for the treatment of Type I Gaucher disease…more

Pfizer: We want to be #3! – Pfizer Inc. plans for its worldwide sales of medicines for treating cancer to increase 10-fold by 2018, said Andreas Penk, regional president of the company’s cancer business in Europe. Pfizer, the world’s biggest drugmaker, had about $2.5 billion in cancer-medicine sales in 2008, according to the company. Pfizer plans to become the third-largest maker of cancer treatments, up from about seventh now…more

Daiichi chief talks about Effient.

Med Device firms and Kickbacks – Several large medical device companies have been accused of marketing their products for unapproved uses while charging the federal government, according to documents unsealed in Houston federal court…more

PLUS – What if I was to go back into Pharma Sales?

AND – some recent stats on physicians on-line (globally). Pretty big. And while we’re at pretty big, here is the horrendous tangle that could be the future of healthcare here in the U.S.

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FDA to Watson on 24-week Trelstar: Ummm, not yet. Oh, and to Bayer and J&J for Xarelto: Ummmm, not yet.

Bayer’s Yaz and blood clots – the legal wrangling continues.

Solvay selling out on pharma, narrows it down to 2 bidders – Solvay has whittled down the list of bidders for its pharmaceuticals business to Nycomed, the privately held Swiss company, and Abbott Laboratories of the US…more

Transplant drugs have to alter labels to include increased risks – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today said that it will require manufacturers of some immunosuppressant drugs used in kidney (renal) transplantation to update their labeling to reflect an increased risk of infections…more

More bad news on hormone therapy – Women who took hormone replacement therapy after menopause had a sharply increased risk of ovarian cancer, researchers in Denmark are reporting…more

It’s very early, but this Roche potential cancer drug shows some interesting promise. Glioblastoma is a real problem, in need of some new therapies. And, speaking of early, here’s a very counter-intuitive positive result for an Alzheimer’s treatment. Like, 180-degrees counter-intuitive!

PLUS: From Forrester Research – How to Create a Social Application for Life Sciences without Getting Fired ($$ report).

AND: What are the pharma company early adopters doing on Twitter? Here’s the overview, with stats.

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Finally – FDA approves DSI/Lilly blood thinner Effient. Narrow indication with warnings, however – The approval makes Lilly‘s Effient the first real competition to the blood thinner Plavix, the world’s second-best selling medication made by Sanofi-Aventis and Bristol-Myers Squibbmore

Debate ignited over newer vs. older schizophrenia drugs – Schizophrenia patients given a cheap older drug are less likely to die prematurely than people on newer treatments, despite the older product’s well-known adverse side effects, Finnish researchers said on Mondaymore

Sermo and AMA get into a public spat. Who represents doctors, really?

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Roche-Genentech – the cuts begin – Anxiety rippled through Genentech this week as the Swiss drug firm Roche began to cut rank-and-file jobs as it folds the South San Francisco biotech firm into its global operations…more

Sciele-Victory link-up: Nah, guess not.

J&J, Vertex, and biodollars.

Merck gets expanded approval for HIV drug – The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it has approved expanded use of a Merck & Co. HIV drug, Isentress. Known chemically as raltegravir, it is now approved for treating new and existing patients with the virus that causes AIDS, in combination with other types of HIV drugs…more

Wyeth has the anti-aging market to itself, and didn’t know it!

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Physican on-line network Sermo about the AMA: Wow – Sermo polled the 100,000 US physicians in our community as to what they thought of the AMA.  Within five days, over 4,100 US physicians voted on the poll and discussed it in over 700 comments.  The results were nothing short of  stunning – 89% of those physicians say, “the AMA does not speak for me”. Check out this visual also.

Did you know about UpToDate.com, an on-line clinical resource for healthcare? I didn’t either until this week.

Adverse Event Reporting and Dialogue in Pharma Social Media. This is an important point to think through – often made out to be a much bigger problem than it really is.

The Pharma and Healthcare Social Media Wiki. It just keeps getting better. Want to find out what’s happening in social networking? – here’s your starting point.

Deloitte takes a fresh look at the Pharma Sales and Marketing model (Asia).

White Paper – Patients Rising: How to Reach Empowered Digital Health Consumers (from Kru Research)

Pharma Search Engine rankings – in need of a fix. Interesting analysis from Dose of Digital blog.

FDA – Waking up with more warnings?

Measuring Return on Involvement.

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Study ended early – who’s the winner? Zetia or Niaspan?

Could New Jersey lose its pharma edge?

BiogenIdec gets a fast track – Biogen Idec Inc., a Cambridge company known for its multiple sclerosis drugs, said that US Food and Drug Administration has granted it Fast Track designation for a potential treatment of relapsing multiple sclerosis…more

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Amgen‘s big win – Amgen‘s experimental denosumab is more effective than Novartis’ blockbuster Zometa in preventing advanced breast cancer from damaging bone, Amgen said in a press release Tuesday…more

Wyeth‘s Prevnar: how about 25% off? – What’s the right amount of the childhood vaccine Prevnar? A study published in JAMA today suggests that three doses may be as effective as the four doses that are standard in the U.S. and many other countries…more

OSI on the move – The company expects to consolidate about 350 of its U.S. employees to the new facility at Ardsley, in Westchester County, New York, in the second half of this year, it said in a statement…more

Good results for GSK‘s cervical cancer vaccine.

Plus – Immuneering? Sounds like an interesting approach…

—— Are you formulating Social Media strategies? Impactiviti provides consulting and expertise for pharma companies seeking to employ the newest e-tools for networked communications…

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Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a conference on Emerging Media in Pharma, sponsored by the good folks at CBI. It was held in a Doubletree Hotel in Philly – the majority of pharma-themed conferences are now held in Philly, it seems (with a few scattering into Princeton NJ, or other nearby locales).

My immediate impression was on the downcast side – the number of attendees was clearly going to be small, which can bring a deadening feel to any event. However, on a positive note, a number of my active fellow pharma networkers were there, including Jon Richman, Phil Baumann, and John Mack, and together, we kept up a very lively interaction with the “outside” world that was tuned into to the Twitter #pharmedia hashtag.

This conference had an interesting mix of speakers – the first day was a bit more on the classic principles, case studies, and discussions, but the second day shifted gears into some broader areas, like what the VA is doing to reach suicidal vets, and perspectives from patient advocates (diabetes, in this case). This was helpful because it got us out of the pharma bubble, and into thinking of some other effective networking angles.

Here are some snippets and sound bytes from the tweetstream over the 2 days:

    Years to reach 50 million users: Radio 38 yrs, TV 13 yrs, Facebook 2 yrs

    The “authority shift” on health content – doctor as primary source decreasing, communities/on-line/consumer opinion leaders increasing

    Mobile platforms for patient drug adherence – huge potential. 25% of epharma consumers demand mobile health tracking (among those with mobile)

    Twazzup – very cool context-tracking interface (try it!)

    Strategic changes: 1) push strategies are failing 2) pull strategies are working

    Do pharma marketers really want to start a conversation? Or just talk? And, do consumers want to converse with pharma? It’s not just about pharma talking to consumers and consumers replying. It’s about consumers talking to consumers.

    People here at #pharmedia really want to know HOW to do it. Others are doing it. Here’s all the social media in pharma. http://bit.ly/11dBiH

    AEs (Adverse Events – the reporting of which on-line scares a lot of pharma regulators -SW) are easy to hide behind and help the risk averse. A set process like AE reporting should be easy to overcome.

    Even at this marketing conf. a pharma speaker has to give fair balance and give out the PI. Seriously.

    (Bayer) Connecting patient taking Betaseron with MS-trained nurse and a mentor. Nice. Like the idea of connecting patients with a mentor. If they meet offline, then no off-label or adverse events online.

    Some of ppts are available from #pharmedia as peeps tweet presentations. Wonderful idea! http://tinyurl.com/lnelda @ideahaus My keynote to UCP: Using Social to Grow Social Capital: http://bit.ly/12F0IL

    “If you build it, they will come.” Not. @jonmrich is giving a refresh on web presence, away from static shop front. http://bit.ly/cbidod

    74% of Rx drug WOM takes place in person (less than 10% on-line). Interesting stat from @healthtalker

    “SM is Pharma’s last best hope to improve its image.” Not if it follows this model: http://bit.ly/gwQgO

    Just don’t get the Adverse Event Reporting fear for pharma soc med. Content mgmt, moderation, hand-off to pharmacovigilance. So? The Myth of Adverse Event Reporting. http://bit.ly/JJSl3

    “Twitter is to brains what Google is to servers”

    Personally, if I only hear “rainbows and unicorns” messages about a drug, it definitely raises my eyebrows.

    Victor Wahby, MD going to give an overview of a communications campaign launched by VA (suicide prevention). 3,600 veteran lives (documented) saved from suicide via this campaign?? Wow. The hotline is 800-273-TALK. Here’s a link to a news article about the VA suicide prevention campaign: http://bit.ly/prI2D So often we talk about campaigns and ideas that are abstractions or trivial pursuits. What the VA is doing is life-saving.

    Twegulate! The world’s first FDA-compliance Twitter regulator application for Pharma. ;) (yes, this was a joke mock-up, dreamed up during the prior evening’s tweetup at a local Irish pub) http://bit.ly/CIJUO

    Now, from the patient side: @sixuntilme and @askmanny, two Type 1 diabetics, start with a crucial point. WE ARE PEOPLE. I do wish pharmas would START here when considering Networked Communications: How can we ADD VALUE to our audience?

    askmanny: See the presentation @sixuntilme and I did today: “Become A Partner With The Patient Blogger” http://bit.ly/qJouL

    The “Loads Of Hope” initiative started by P&G teaches a big lesson that all other companies can learn from http://bit.ly/453lq

    Participatory Medicine is being talked about http://e-patients.net being touted. @ePatientDave would be proud.

    Having practiced in US and Asia, I can say participatory medicine is over-rated. Despite my overly participatory style, many patients do best w classic paternalism.

    The Conclusion: If your company can’t be remarkable online, don’t even try. If it’s gonna be overly complicated, forget about it. 

    #Pharmedia was fun, with very active twittering (far more back-channel discussion than in-room, actually!) Thanks to all who took part!

That should give you a pretty good taste of the themes, and the flavor, of the two days.

The organization of the conference was excellent, the food was quite good, and some of us had a very pleasant tweetup with other Philly folks on the Monday evening – which, coincidentally, was being held just a few blocks away. Some speakers bailed at the last minute – that was disruptive – and the use of mics could have been better coordinated. Otherwise, it was a fine time.

Hopefully, I’ll see you at some other upcoming pharma conferences this year – here’s where I’ll be!

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