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Any Canadian AE’s Reported via Social Media?

Pharmaceutical companies have concerns about initiating social media campaigns due to the potential reporting of adverse events (AE). Having been on the client side for most of my career, I admit that this would be a concern of mine as well. To completely dismiss the possibility of AE’s being added to a social network would be irresponsible.

Have there been any Canadian AE’s reported via social media? I’m sure there have been AE’s reported by Canadians on social networks, but whether they have been reported or even identified, that is unknown to the general public.  Despite the fact that the public has access to the AE’s reported to Health Canada by searching the Canada Vigilance Adverse Reaction Online Database, this does not include data about the method of transmission of the report. Health Canada receives AE’s via fax, e-mail, telephone, mail, and online via MedEffect Canada which collects information about the AE, the reporter, the patient and the drug in question, but does not display the details about the method of transmission of the report itself. Therefore, there is no way for the general public to know if any Canadian AE’s have been reported to Health Canada via social media or online communities unless they do their own social media market research.  If somebody has done this type of research in Canada, and it is allowed to share the information, please feel free to contact me via the comment section or send me an e-mail.

If you are looking for more information about AE reporting in Canada, you may want to take a look at Health Canada’s MedEffect Canada website.

The following data in this post is actually a bit old by now, so I will not dwell on the details.

In August 2008, Nielson Online published an article called “Listening to Consumers in a Highly Regulated Environment”. The author is Melissa Davies. You can download a complimentary copy of the article here. I first learned about this report via a blog post by Pharma 2.0.

The key message from this report is that from an analysis of 500 random healthcare-related messages on social networks, only 1 actually met all 4 criteria for being a reportable AE ; 1) identifiable patient, 2) identifiable reporter, 3) specific drug / medication, and 4) an adverse event.

Nielson Online - August 2008

Jonathan Richman (Dose of Digital) recently did a few calculations of his own based on some of the additional information that he received from Ms. Davies, the author of the Nielson Online report. Here was his conclusion;

“The ENTIRE PHARMA INDUSTRY, assuming they were responsible for EVERY SINGLE discussion online, would have to manage 166 reportable adverse events per day. Divide that out across the number of companies out and there’s not a lot of work for people to do.”

Of course there are measures that you can take to reduce the risk of having AE’s mentioned on your company’s or brand’s social network (ie. such as removing the option to make comments, or editing comments with prior warning that mentions of AE’s or even just product mentions may be edited to remain within the industry’s guidelines), but these reduce the level of engagement with the consumers … and that is the whole point of social media. Die-hard social media gurus will warn you against such measures, but as somebody who has walked in the pharma clients’ shoes as well as the Health 2.0 advocates’ shoes, I realize that there sometimes is a need for commenting restrictions. Plus, our Canadian pharmaceutical promotional guidelines are quite different than those of the U.S., especially when it comes to promoting drug information to consumers. As a result, us Canadian medical marketers might find ourselves in a situation where we have no choice but to limit commenting abilities or take on the responsibility of editing consumer comments in order to abide by our industry’s promotional guidelines. The PAAB hosted social media workshops in 2009 to help Canadian pharmaceutical marketers better understand what could and could not be done on social media when promoting their brands.

Before jumping in, do some market research and take a look at the types of comments that have been made about your brand(s) on social networks over the past year. This will give you an idea of the sentiment of the comments and whether there are AE’s being reported. As your company begins to embrace social media, allow yourself to take one step at a time as your level of comfort with social media grows. Your social network members will appreciate it far more if you add new social media features rather than if you remove them.

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