Pharma’s Use of Medical Conference Hashtags Is It Unregulated “Backchannel” Promotion?
Pharmaguy interviews Len Starnes, a digital consultant (see Bio), who critiques a #MICEproject report, which concluded that the pharmaceutical industry uses medical conference hashtags as unregulated “backchannels” to exert an equal or greater amount of influence than healthcare providers.

Recorded on Wednesday, 5 August 2015

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Abstract of Study: Twitter backchannels are increasingly popular at medical conferences. A variety of user groups, including healthcare providers and third party entities (e.g., pharmaceutical or medical device companies) use these backchannels to communicate with one another. These backchannels are unregulated and can allow third party commercial entities to exert an equal or greater amount of influence than healthcare providers. Third parties can use this influence to promote their products or services instead of sharing unbiased, evidence-based information. In the #MICEproject we quantified the influence that third party commercial entities had in 13 major medical conferences.

Questions/Topics of Discussion

  • What sparked this discussion about pharma’s use of medical society conference hashtags?
  • The authors of the analysis describe Twitter conference reporting as a “backchannel,” implying that it is somehow covert. Is it?
  • Do you agree with the analysis that pharma disproportionately influences HCPs on conference hashtags?
  • Do you support the authors of the analysis that all pharma tweets on conference hashtags constitute “detailing”?
  • Should medical societies try to control conference hashtag use – is it possible or desirable?
  • What exactly are the authors of the analysis proposing?
  • Is self-regulation a better option for the pharma industry?

Guest Bio

Len StarnesAfter 17 years in the pharma industry working in global and regional digital marketing positions Len Starnes became an independent digital healthcare consultant in 2011.

The benefits of working within the pharma industry include deep knowledge of what works in digital marketing, what doesn’t — and most importantly, why. As an independent consultant Starnes enjoys the luxury of supporting not only the biopharma industry but also medtechs, medical societies, HCPs’ social networks, healthcare startups, VCs, and national health authorities, among others.

Additional Resources