Social media renders commercial model obsolete, panelists say

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To leverage social media effectively, the drug industry will have to transform its commercial model, said panelists at the ePharma Summit.

“Traditional advertising has become secondary to managing care and health economics at the consumer level,” said Kathleen Onieal, president of Hayes Onieal Consulting and former global VP of marketing innovation at Merck. “Research and segmentation must be sophisticated…leading to mass customization of facts.”

Responding to a question about whether or not traditional advertising has a place at all in social media, Nancy Phelan, executive director, consumer communications & e-marketing at Wyeth, said pharmas will have to "create a new model – and we certainly haven't figured it out yet." Phelan said pharmas are more aware of their public personas, which is important, and that more and more brands are using trial offers to net patient feedback.

"There's an increasing demand for e-consumer insight," she said, adding that transparency with respect to healthcare provider reporting and tracking is an important step forward.  

Paul Ivans, president of Evolution Road, said pharmas continue to shy away from engaging social media for fear of the costs and management resources needed to meet adverse events reporting requirements. "We can't ignore the conversation,” said Ivans. “We need to come up with a frictionless way to control [adverse events reporting]."

Marketers shouldn't necessarily lead conversations in social media, said Ivans. “The way to move that along is not by putting marketers in there, but a whole group of people, including managed care, legal, regulatory and others,” he said.

The 8th annual ePharma Summit is being held in Philadelphia through Thursday.   

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