The social networking savvy of consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry is often cited by pharma marketing consultants as something the pharmaceutical industry should emulate.

Here’s what one interactive agency — picked at random via a Google search — suggested its pharma clients should expect from their digital agency:

“They should also know industries like consumer packaged goods (CPG) or consumer electronics or any other industry where some of the newest digital strategies and tactics are being tried. This will allow them to reapply these lessons to healthcare/pharma. If your agency only knows healthcare/pharma, then you’re missing something and probably doing the same thing as last year” – (copied from this post).

That’s all very well and good as far as “digital strategy” per se goes, but pharma companies may also learn from CPG companies how to modify their Terms of Use agreements on their digital and social media sites (even Facebook?) to prevent users from suing them. Not that that’s a good thing!

As reported in the New York Times (here), “General Mills, the food mega-corporation that owns Betty Crocker, Nature Valley, and Cheerios, has “quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, ‘join’ it in online communities like Facebook, enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest or interact with it in a variety of other ways.”

I know of at least once instance when this policy, known as “forced arbitration,” could have helped a major pharma company.

Back in March 2010, a patient laid siege to Sanofi-Aventis Facebook page by posting multiple comments and photos about an adverse event she suffered (see here). Eventually, this led to the page being shout down. This patient may have sued S-A, because the company could not talk about the matter due to legal issues.

S-A had to shut down its corporate FB page until it revised its Terms of Use (TOU) policy. Now the page posts comments that are compliant with its Terms of Use, which does NOT include a “forced arbitration” policy.

My advice to pharma? Please do NOT follow the lead of General Mills and included a “forced arbitration” policy in your Terms of Use policies!