PharmExec Blog

A Plea for Change at HCMA Conference

Senator Jennifer Beck

Pharma might be aTwitter about social media, but few companies are freeing their marketing teams to try new strategies to engage consumers and patients. And they have a good reason to be afraid. With FDA dropping warning letters for the most innocent infractions, there is legit trepidation in trying new online strategies.

So, it’s no surprise that social media was top of mind during the opening panel at today’s meeting of the Healthcare Communication & Marketing Association (HCMA).

After a slight rain delay due to the deluge of precipitation falling on North Jersey, Republican Senator Jennifer Beck took the podium to talk about some of the challenges facing the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.

During the keynote speech, Beck said that there are currently upwards of 60,000 pharmaceutical jobs in New Jersey, but that the state also leads in unemployment in the region. She went over the different strategies in the works to make a tiered healthcare program available to New Jersey residents, and the challenges inherent in providing access to healthcare.  But what resonated most with the audience of healthcare communicators was her statement about whether pharma should be freed to do more with new media.

“If our president can make the leap into [social media], we all can,” Beck told the audience. “You should be abe to put the right information out there without a million regulations from FDA.”

But she also said that she expects government to intervene even more in drug advertisement and put a greater emphasis on monitoring and curbing questionable ads.

Pfizer’s VP of its medical division Cathryn Clary noted that industry has dipped its big toe in the pool using UCB’s new patient forum in conjunction with the PatientsLikeMe social media platform and J&J’s blog as good examples of new media in pharma.

Moderator and Pharm Exec editor Patrick Clinton acknowledged Pfizer’s recent change in communications tactics, particularly their quick response to reporters and appointment of Kathryn Metcalfe as VP corporate reputation and policy communication. He also stated that the FDA’s rush to nail pharma with warning letters for the most innocuous offence is on analogous to a teacher who punishes the good kid rather than the bully for starting a fight.

However, the punctuation point of the panel came from the audience as one forward thinking thinking marketer stated, “Social media is not a fad—you can connect with people beyond the Internet. If industry doesn’t grab it, we will all blow it.”

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One Comment

  1. Posted May 21, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

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2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] strictly governed by legal and medical regulations. During the opening of this week’s Healthcare Communication & Marketing Association (HCMA) meeting, for example, a number of key thought leaders attempted to define the use of social media within [...]

  2. [...] strictly governed by legal and medical regulations. During the opening of this week’s Healthcare Communication & Marketing Association (HCMA) meeting, for example, a number of key thought leaders attempted to define the use of social media within [...]

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