Pharmas will monitor Facebook posts after site changes pharmas’ wall policy

Pharmaceutical companies on Facebook for years have had a decidedly one-way relationship on the social networking site: Pharmas could post about their drugs, but the public could not write on pharma’s walls. Now that’s changed.

Facebook will no longer allow pharmaceutical companies to block comments, a healthcare social media policy change that has led some companies to take down pages. But a number of companies, including Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN), are maintaining their Facebook pages. From now on, however, they’ll keep a close eye to monitor what’s posted.

The rationale for blocking comments was to keep misinformation about products or conditions from getting posted to a pharma’s Facebook page. Fierce Pharma notes that while Facebook plays a role in pharma companies social media efforts by offering a new way to connect with patients and doctors, the platform also brings the challenge of policing comments. Blocking comments relieved them of that responsibility. But now drug companies don’t have a choice but to monitor them. Facebook started to require disease awareness pages to allow comments in May. Those requirements start today for pharma companies.


AstraZeneca, which sells the antidepressant Seroquel, shut down a page devoted to depression, The Washington Post reported. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) said it will close four of its pages Monday.

Visitors to Pfizer’s page now see a message from the company that states it may need to pull comments down from its wall under certain circumstances. Those situations could include vulgarity and off-topic comments, which are standard reasons that companies in various industries give for removing comments. But Pfizer also notes it could remove comments that reference a product — Pfizer’s or anyone else’s — in the interest of fair balance. Pfizer also won’t allow any comments that offer medical advice.

“It is great to want to provide help to your fellow visitors, but given the serious implications unsolicited and unverified medical advice might have, we can’t allow it on our wall,” Pfizer said.

AstraZeneca isn’t leaving Facebook. Spokesman Tony Jewell blogged today: “We are keeping our Facebook page for the US business.” He explains that the site helps the company “listen to and participate in important conversations about health care in the United States.”

But like Pfizer, AstraZeneca is now laying out guidelines including the caveat that as much as it welcomes comments, it also reserves the right to take down comments. AstraZeneca cites many of the same reasons that Pfizer outlined.

This is probably not the last word on the matter. A new decision on social media policy could spark further changes in how pharmas approach Facebook communication. But that next policy change won’t be from Facebook. It is expected from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has yet to release anticipated social media guidelines.

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