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Posts from the ‘Pharma’ Category

An Open Letter to Pharma: Please Employ a Wikipedian

Based on the recent open letter sent to the Royal Society about employing a Wikipedian in residence, here is my open letter as a Wikipedia administrator to pharma following the discussion with Michael Spitz on Twitter.

Dear Pharma Companies,

The place of Wikipedia in the dissemination of medical information online is indisputable now. If you want your customers to access information about your products from the quality perspective and in the simplest way, you have to deal with using Wikipedia.

Based on the pretty negative past encounters between pharma employees and Wikipedia editors (pharma employees trying to edit entries about their own products in a quite non-neutral way), we advise you to employ a Wikipedia editor if you want to make sure only evidence-based information is included in entries about your own products. Appointing someone from within your company as a “spokesperson” in Wikipedia who would perform all edits on behalf of the company is an excellent way to update those entries.

For more details, please see our open access social media guide.

But basically, we, Wikipedians, are more than open to starting a discussion about this with you.

I’m looking forward to working together.

Dr. Bertalan Mesko

Psoriasis 360 is Over: Conclusions?

A lot of colleagues from the pharmaceutical industry have asked me about the recent closure of J&J’s Psoriasis 360 Facebook page in the past couple of days. They asked whether this is a proof that pharma shouldn’t be on Facebook.

Psoriasis 360 was one of the best examples of pharma being open to use social media effectively. It was the first pharma-driven Facebook page initiated by Alex Butler, that allowed comments. People likes that, the industry used it as the example, it won awards. And now, it’s closed.

More than a year after launching its Psoriasis 360 page on Facebook, the Janssen UK unit of Johnson & Johnson is closing down due to a growing number of comments that had to be removed because specific drugs were mentioned or, in some cases, offensive language was used. The decision was posted on the Facebook page today.

I have managed large medical/pharma Facebook pages and I know it can be hard to manage a page with a lot of limitations, but in that case it must have been around 1-2 comments daily. Yes, daily. It means there is another reason behind the closure.

I’ve told all my pharma contacts this is the proof that a pharma-driven Facebook page (or any social media channel) can only be successful if someone with good communication/social media skills is behind that and is responsible for that. As soon as Alex left the company, they decided to close the page.

Take-home message: find the right people for managing and designing these social media channels otherwise it just won’t work.

Game Changers, Pharma Digital in 2012: Slideshow

Alex Butler, who recently left Janssen UK, just published a great overview of the digital pharma palette:

Social Media Guidance for Pharma: Developments

Long story short:

  1. Pharma and medical professionals had been waiting for the FDA to come up with a social media-related guidance. They did not.
  2. We collaboratively created an open access social media guide for and about pharma.
  3. Submitted it to the FDA and the European Medicines Agency (this agency later confirmed to me they do not work on a social media guide).
  4. The FDA came up with a guidance in which partially dealing with social media.

The Digital Metamorphosis of the Pharma Industry: Slideshow

The amazing Len Starnes gave this presentation at Pharma Digital Marketing, in Istanbul, on the 8th February 2012.

PharmApps: Wiki of Pharma Mobile Apps

As the PharmApps site declares, it’s good that we have more and more pharma mobile apps, but it’s becoming increasingly hard to track them and find what we need. So PharmApps aimed at creating a database of these by using proper tags and categories.

We know that in this digital age, the best feedback happens when a broad group of individuals has the ability to upload and comment on content being shared for all to use and digest. We’ve built a resource, or wiki, that, by design, will grow through the input and insight of people interested in the healthcare marketplace, mobile technologies, and apps. The PharmApps wiki aggregates pharma/healthcare apps and gives users the ability to add comments, write reviews, rate apps, and share and upload new apps. The apps are categorized by branded, unbranded, audience, and operating system so users can easily sort through this growing resource. The site will continue to evolve, addressing ongoing feedback, new developments, and our collective learning along the way.

Personally, I still like this database as well.

Nature documentary discovers pharma reps in the wild: Funniest video

One of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen. A “nature documentary” about how pharma reps attack their prey, the doctor…

Open Access Social Media Guide for Pharma: FDA Weighs In?

I was very happy to announce, a few weeks ago, the launch of the first open access social media guide for and about pharma and the feedback was amazing! John Mack from Pharma Marketing Blog analyzed it line by line. Then the FDA came out with a guideline-like paper mentioning social media as well.

“What everybody was looking for was never going to happen. If you’re waiting for divine guidance, you’re still waiting,” Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, told Ad Age. “I doubt there is ever going to be definitive rules for social media-marketing like there are for TV and print. And there’s a reason for that. FDA has made it very clear they were not going to make platform-specific guidelines, like how to use Facebook, how to use Twitter, because social media evolves every day.”

- here’s the FDA’s guidance (.pdf)

I’m pretty sure it does not do what it should do and help pharma use social media properly. Two fellow bloggers tried to interpret this paper (one and two). As Dose of Digital said:

It’s been a long wait, but the FDA finally delivered. They’ve come through with at least some direction for how pharma companies can properly use social media. It’s not a complete answer to every issue, but it is a good start. I’ve reviewed the full contents of the guidance that the FDA released on December 30, 2011 and found it, not surprisingly, a bit hard to follow at times. The full title of the guidance they released is: “Responding to Unsolicited Requests for Off-Label Information About Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices.” Catchy.

Then I wrote a letter to the FDA and the European Medicines Agency to get some feedback from them. EMA responded quickly:

“Dear Dr. Mesko,

Thank you for your email of 16 December 2011 regarding guidelines about using social media.

Please note that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is a European scientific body responsible for the evaluation of medicines for authorisation purposes within the European Union and the supervision of their safety thereafter. Providing guidance to healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry on using social media is not within the Agency’s remit.

You may find it useful to know that the European Commission adopted on 11 October 2011 two revised proposals clarifying the information that industry can supply to the public on prescription-only medicines. For more information please refer to the following webPage:

We hope you find this information useful.”

I replied to them saying that while the FDA is working on such a guidance, are they sure they are not doing something similar?  They replied again:

Thank you for your follow-up email of 3 January 2012 regarding guidelines about using social media.

We can confirm that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is not developing any guidance for healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry on using social media.

That’s it, my friends. The FDA came out with something but we expected much more; and the EMA is not even planning to deal with social media.

We are alone, but don’t worry. In a collaborative effort, we can create a detailed guide for us.


12 Predictions in Healthcare, Technology and Innovation for 2012

Last year, I published a list of my predictions for 2011 in the areas of healthcare, innovation and technology. Now after a year, I checked these items and actually many of them proved to be right (year of tablets, skyrocketing, Siri leading the way for voice controlled apps, etc.), but now it’s time to come up with the predictions for 2012. Here are my 12 predictions, please feel free to add yours in the comment section.

1) Digital only class in social media for medical professionals and e-patients. Well, that’s quite an easy prediction, as I will launch the global form of my social media in medicine university course this February.

2) Social media policy everywhere. Now that we have an open access social media guide for and about pharma; it’s time for the FDA to come up with their own detailed instructions; also universities, healthcare institutions and medical practices, everyone must have its own as almost everyone is using social media intensively.

3) Augmented reality in radiology. Augmented reality has been a major issue for some time, but seeing the video below made it clear for me, this is where we are going to head in 2012. Doctors can see through patients.

4) Health-fitness gadgets will rock 2012. Myself, I’ve been using Striiv as a fitness motivation tool which also logs my data and visualizes my exercises making it easier for me to make plans and see how I’m doing. Other examples include  Jawbone, but you can find even more if you follow the Quantified Self project.

5) Innovations in screen technologies. The form, material and functions of the screens we know now will change dramatically in 2012. Imagine paper screen, holographic screens or flexible screens on your wrist.

6) Internet TV and the operating room. The news sites are full of Apple TV and Google TV, so it’s obvious really innovative internet TVs will be launched in 2012 which brings up the idea of watching operations live on your TV at home. Just check

7) Pharma will be using social media more intensively. I’m not saying all the pharma companies will have properly designed and managed social media presence, but many brands will use social media more intensively as we should be over now the so-called learing phase and they are getting braver by time.

8) More and more tablet-specific apps. I know the number of medicine/health-related mobile apps is growing rapidly, but now it’s time to turn to tablet-specific clinical apps that could be used in radiology, clinical trials or just for grand rounds.

9) Tablets in healthcare institutions. Whenever I talked to professors and colleagues about how I use my tablet in medicine and healthcare, in a few weeks, many of them had their own tablets and started using those apps. This is contagious. In 2012, a lot of hospitals, clinics and departments will hand out iPad or Galaxy Tabs to their employees in order to facilitate teamwork and make the work processes more efficient.

10) Wikipedia will have more medical featured articles, less medical errors. We recently published a paper describing how Wikipedia can be used for global public health promotion. After years of focus on creating new medical entries in Wikipedia, now we the editors focus on including proper references into medical articles. It is going to lead to a huge improvement in quality.

11) More health bloggers turn to microblogging due to lack of time. Although I believe my blog is still my major platform online even if Twitter is the fastest channel and Facebook is the most interactive. But I understand those health bloggers who leave their blogs and turn to Posterious, Tumblr or Twitter exclusively. It takes less time to post a message or entry therefore they will use these with a bigger chance.

12) Google+ health pages on the rise. I like Google+ and I think it could be used in medical communication successfully. As Google+ has only been letting companies or institutions have G+ pages, we are going to see a rise in their number soon. Even Ed Bennett who maintains a list of hospital social media accounts will include these as well.

Let’s finish my list with a great presentation about the trends in healthcare for 2012.

Top Medical Social Media Stories of 2011: Month by Month

2011 was a very intense and exciting year regarding the developments and new insights of the relationship between medicine/healthcare and social media. Here are my favourite stories from 2011 selected and featured month by month.


I had the honour to be included in the Advisory Board of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media; I wrote about how a Samsung Galaxy Tab changed totally my online activities, how Google Translate can be used in medicine and featured HealCam, a medical alternative of ChatRoulette.


Facebook diagnosis by surgeon saved a friend; there was a lively discussion whether pharma companies can edit Wikipedia entries about their own products, it turned out Wikipedia can be a key tool for global public health promotion; and Scienceroll won the Best Medical Technology/Informatics Blog category for the third time in a row in the Medgadget’s Weblog Awards.


The new semester of the Internet in Medicine social media university course was launched, pregnant women could text their due date for free weekly advice during pregnancy on Push, Baby Push;  Webicina was featured by the Kairos Society on Wall Street,  UCSF Medical Center installed a robotic pharmacy in order to remove medication errors from the system; and here is my video message for Stanford about the importance of digital literacy in medical education.


Jay Parkinson summarized his story of being the first online doc, the Webicina iPhone app won the 2011 Medical App Awards; Al Jazeera called me Dr. Twitter after I described how Twitter can be used for medical crowdsourcing, and in the fight against AIDS a time lapse video of a woman with HIV/AIDS was published.


Blogger announced own death after battle with cancer which shocked people, then a woman managed to find a kidney donor through Twitter, The Social Life of Health Information Pew Internet report was released, and top doctors described how a medical professional should start using social media.


I co-authored a medical textbook about medical communication in social media; Google Health was announced to be closed, a cancer patient who blogged about his hospital treatment was threatened with legal action by an NHS trust; Doctors 2.0 and You was the event of the year; and here are some disasters in social media and what we should learn from them.


ePatient Dave rocked TED; Mayo Clinic launched an online community in a perfect way, Pfizer’s Facebook page got hacked and they reacted badly, I listed the reasons why I like Google+ even in medicine; mobile apps got regulated by the FDA; and it turned out iPhones can be used for obtaining ECG.


I published a story about how Twitter can be used to predict epidemics; even waiting rooms can be redesigned to improve healthcare; I described why I’m happy that patients use the web; started managing the social media presence of a huge medical portal; I stated what you write only is forever; and pharma had hard days because of comments on Facebook.


Using hashtags is crucial in medical communication on Twitter;  I talked about the future of health 2.0 in Europe; organized a virtual medical consultation in the virtual world on World Heart Day; this is how creativity can be used in healthcare; and I presented the best apps of a physician at the Doctors 2.0 and You conference.


Nobel winner died days before award announced; I shared a social media love story about a bone marrow donor; an app let us run figures on maps; Google+ was used for case presentations; and Mayo Clinic launched the Know Your Numbers campaign.


I published the 7 Features of the New Generation of Physicians; my open access success story; a summary about the Games for Health conference; hardcore campaigns about men’s health; and revealed why the most viewed medical video on Youtube got millions of hits.


Winners of the Webicina social media story contest were announced; WHO featured Webicina; the launch of a global medial social media course was announced; I described my time management tools and tips in medicine; the open access set of social media guidelines for and about pharma was published; and finally found the cutest story of 2011, parents got insulin-pump tattoos to support diabetic child.

I’m going to post my predictions for 2012 tomorrow and I hope you will stay with next year as well!


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