Amgen just “retweeeted” this Twitter tweet from @changemakers (an Ashoka initiative, begun in 1994, that “helps advance and scale blossoming social innovations”):
“Friendly reminder: We’re hosting a Patient Empowerment #SocEntChat on Nov 18 from 3-5pm EST. #health #healthcare”
A Twitter “chat” can be organized by any Twitter user merely by creating a “hashtag” (ie, #SocEntChat”), scheduling it at a specific time, and promoting it. Having a hashtag is convenient because you can search Twitter for all tweets that include the hashtag. The result is content that can be useful.
I’m interested in the subject of patient empowerment because of the survey I just began (“Should Pharma Hire Online ‘Patient Opinion Leaders’?“). So, naturally, the “retweet” by Amgen caught my attention.
At first, I thought that Amgen itself was hosting this Twitter chat. I am not aware of any pharma/biotech company hosting such a Twitter chat. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been done, but if it has been done, it must be a rare thing. But why?
It appears to me that a pharma-hosted Twitter chat about a disease condition would be of high interest to consumers and patients. Boehringer Ingelhiem (BI), for example, could host a COPD Twitter chat in conjunction with its DRIVE4COPD campaign. BI has a DRIVE4COPD Twitter account (@DRIVE4COPD) and has used the #4COPD hashtag (infrequently), but I haven’t seen any regularly-scheduled chat (eg, #COPDChat).
There can be several reasons why I haven’t seen such chats hosted by pharma companies:
- There are no guidelines from the FDA regarding how that agency will regulate Twitter chats hosted and/or “moderated” by pharma companies. A “moderated” Twitter chat is one where the discussion is lead by a person who sets the agenda (see, for example, “On Being Voted Off the Social Media Island“).
- Pharma companies are concerned about being overwhelmed by adverse events that may pop up in tweets during a chat session that they host and/or moderate.
- Pharma companies are concerned about “off-label” promotion that may be made by chat participants.
- Organizing and moderating a chat requires too much effort and is too risky.
- Once you start a chat, it’s very hard to control the message.
- Consumers don’t really want to chat with pharma companies.
Pharma had many questions for the FDA that relate to several of the concerns listed above. But even if the regulations were crystal clear, which they will never be, most pharma companies may never directly host or moderate Twitter chats because they can control neither the audience nor the message.