PR View by Ann Moravick

Go online and you'll see bountiful commentary about drug companies and their products. Yet many companies stand on the digital sidelines for two valid reasons: adverse event reporting requirements and the lack of FDA guidelines on internet communications.

But is the industry's silence online a sound thing, particularly now with controversy raining down on the industry? An active dose of leadership is needed in forging change. Unless companies boldly confront these issues, the industry could suffer further damage and, worse, lose the opportunity to shape its own communications future.

Legal liability may have prevented pharma from communicating online until now, but it is likely that this liability may soon require companies to know exactly what is being said about their drugs on the web. For instance,  social networking sites such as Sermo are being explored by the FDA as a means to gauge drug safety issues directly from the physician community.

Imagine Henry Waxman probing a pharma exec: “Do you mean to tell me that you did not know about the safety issues of your drug when thousands of physicians online discussed these very issues just last week?”

Why wait until Congress intervenes? If we as an industry explored innovative communications approaches to evolve adverse event reporting online, we would help the FDA ferret out adverse events, enhance patient safety and improve the reputation of the industry by demonstrating leadership on a tough and complex issue.

Clearly any steps taken by the industry must be substantive and not simply “talking the talk.” Change is on its way and we can either wait for it to happen as we stand on the periphery or we can be the voice of change.

Ann Moravick is EVP of global healthcare and brand advocacy at Ketchum 

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