“The reality of that actually happening is very small…”

“Does the public even want to talk with pharma companies?”

“If the FDA opened hearings to the public they would get an earful of what they don’t want to hear or acknowledge…”

“Another reason the FDA is not going to get into social media as a marketing tool is that the evolution of social media is continuing at a very fast pace…”

“…at this time I’m sure the FDA wants to try and head to calmer waters.”

“With an anemic forecast for pharma sales for 2009 and more layoffs expected I also can’t see pharma hiring more people to manage online social media initiatives.”

Wow! Fellow blogger Rich Meyer really dissed my call for a public hearing hosted by FDA on use of social media (or Internet in general) by pharmaceutical companies in his post “Why the FDA will not conduct a public hearing on social media.”

[See my call here: “FDA, Tear Down This Wall! A Draft Petition Calling for a Public Hearing“]

Never mind that 88% of respondents to a survey agree that before issuing any draft guidance on the use of the internet by pharmaceutical companies, FDA should convene a public hearing in which ALL the stakeholders can put on record their suggestions and concerns. That includes 63% who “strongly agree.” Even 56% of US Pharma respondents strongly agree!

What Rich fails to see is that the pharmaceutical industry is getting into social media marketing whether consumers want a conversation with pharma or not. And the industry is devising its own guidelines behind closed doors WITHOUT any input from patients, consumers, physicians, or other stakeholders.

And whether or not the FDA wants to hear it or will even develop guidelines for the industry, a public hearing will inform them, the drug industry, and ourselves about how the public views pharma’s entry into THEIR world!

I will also remind Rich that the last time the FDA held a public hearing on the Internet a lot of good came from it even though the FDA did not issue specific internet guidelines.

One result of that hearing was the birth of a grassroots coalition I helped organize to develop a set of ethical principles guiding the use of the Internet for health information.

But because the FDA did not issue specific guidelines left the drug industry able to read the tea leaves and come up with their own interpretation of what was within regulations and what was not. The folly of that was demonstrated when the FDA issued its “14 letters.”

Rich is right that the Internet is evolving at a very fast pace. But that is NO reason not to have a public hearing. In fact, it is the BEST reason to have such a hearing now. Only the FDA can do this in order for the results to be heard round the world. All our little Tweetups and white papers won’t amount to a hill of beans because it is just the industry and its agents speaking for the public, not with the public!