Ed Silverman: “Big Pharma will have to communicate more openly”

Pharma blogger Ed Silverman is a pretty unique animal — a newspaper journalist (for the Star-Ledger of New Jersey) who is actively engaged in the blogosphere. Ed conceded that he hasn’t reported much on Health 2.0 yet — largely because Big Pharma hasn’t done much in this area — but he was nice enough to answer a few of our questions.

Q: How do you define Health 2.0? As a journalist, how do you separate the reality from the hype?

A: In a perfect world, I see it as one big basket of interactive info coupled with meaningful discussion. Right now, though, I see a disjointed process for gathering or disseminating data. As they say in Texas, you can’t fool a fool. But I try to sort things out by reading a lot, talking to people and asking questions.

Q: What do you think are the most important implications for Health 2.0 for the pharmaceutical industry — short-term, and long-term?

A: Short-term — falling behind the curve by failing to find a way to communicate more directly with consumers. Long-term — if knowledge is power, then the industry will have to become more transparent. The industry too often cites regulatory oversight, trade secrets and fear of litigation as excuses for not communicating more openly, primarily with its customers.

Q: How should Big Pharma respond to the challenges of transparency? Do you see any pharmaceutical company in particular as taking the lead in social media?

A: By assigning its legal teams to research ways to engage the public without violating any laws. Saying “no” is safe and easy, but doesn’t accomplish anything.

The Glaxo Alli blog is interesting, if limited, with its attempts to engage select readers. The Johnson & Johnson BTW blog is curious, but feels constrained. Here’s an example of trying but not quite getting there — Lilly’s clinical trial database is a half-measure, with too many exceptions and not enough clarity.

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Comments (6)

Cary — great series of interviews on Health 2.0. Ed’s right — it is easier to say no — but that doesn’t accomplsih anything. By taking small steps, companies can start to become more comfortable with being more open. All this takes time — but you have to start somewhere.

Pharmalot and it’s author is one of the more objective pharma blogs out there, because when a blogger becomes excited about progressive wrongdoing, they tend to become transparent, and thier anger and frustration becomes reflected in thier writing.

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