Wiley Corporate Logo

Top Navigation

Interview : Social Media Use for Multi-Channel Pharma Marketing

New social media technologies are opening up new channels of communication for pharma marketers to reach out to their healthcare stakeholders.  How can pharmas navigate the social responsibilities that come with social media use?

social media for phrama marketerWiley Interface asked Dr. Eiji Sasahara, Partner of the Healthcare Cloud Initiative, NPO how FDA guidance on social media use for multichannel marketing is impacting pharmas in Japan and the opportunities he envisions for social media use.


Wiley Interface : Can you share more with us about yourself and your experience in healthcare cloud?

Dr. Eiji Sasahara : At Healthcare Cloud Initiative, NPO, I’ve focused on impacts of the East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami towards Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) management in healthcare IT.  Healthcare consumers are the key stakeholders in the total healthcare value chain, eagerly seeking information about health promotion, disease prevention, treatment of specific conditions, and management of various health conditions and chronic diseases.  After the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accidents, the stakeholders have been adopting and utilizing social media, based on public cloud services, through both fixed and mobile broadband networks.  However, in Japan, most of healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies do not have integrated gateway for social media communications.  Lack of a communication gateway targeting healthcare consumers online means gaps in stakeholder communications.  In addition, the number of healthcare consumers with a good understanding of the potential risks in social media, such as misinformation about drugs and medical devices, is still small.  As social media is a public communication tool and users need to understand their social responsibilities, it is essential to minimize the consumers’ risks by utilizing standardized social media technologies under integrated structure for social media management.

Wiley Interface : What are the key FDA guidance on social media use for multichannel marketing?  What does it encompass?

Dr. Eiji Sasahara : In the US, FDA has released four drafts that address various topics related to use of Social Media as follows:

i) Internet/Social Media Platforms with Character Space Limitations – Presenting Risk and Benefit Information for Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices (June, 2014)
ii) Internet/Social Media Platforms: Correcting Independent Third-Party Misinformation About Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices (June, 2014)
iii) Fulfilling Regulatory Requirements for Postmarketing Submissions of Interactive Promotional Media for Prescription Human and Animal Drugs and Biologics (January, 2014)
iv) Responding to Unsolicited Requests for Off-Label Information About Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices (December, 2011)

The most influential draft guidance is “Fulfilling Regulatory Requirements for Postmarketing Submissions of Interactive Promotional Media for Prescription Human and Animal Drugs and Biologics” in January 2014, because it referred to emerging digital marketing media mix, including Owned Media, Paid Media and Earned Media.

Wiley Interface : When was the FDA guidance on social media for multichannel marketing implemented in Japan?

Dr. Eiji Sasahara : In Japan, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) started the official YouTube channel in February 2009 and responded to concerns over the spread of the H1N1 swine flu virus after April 2009, and also initiated an official Twitter account for immediate information sharing in September 2010. The goal of the MHLW has been to efficiently communicate critical information to the public, and create new channels of communication by leveraging on social media technologies.

However, with regard to promotion, labeling and off-label information for MHLW/PMDA-regulated drugs and medical devices, there is no official Social Media use guideline. Lack of standardized Social Media guidelines in Japan is challenging for interactive communications on regulated products between the regulators and healthcare consumers, and MHLW has a keen interest in what happens in the US.

Wiley Interface : What is the impact of FDA guidance on social media use for multichannel marketing by pharma companies in Japan?

Dr. Eiji Sasahara : It is the fact that common Social Media services and technologies are available to healthcare consumers in both the US and Japan.

Major Japan-oriented pharmaceutical companies depend on sales from the US market, and their head offices in Japan should be responsible for supervising Social Media management at global corporate level.

Most of non-Japanese pharmaceutical companies are going to utilize Social Media in total management life cycle of newly approved drugs in the US, and, sooner or later, those products will enter the Japan market. Sharing best practices of Social Media utilization is essential worldwide.

Wiley Interface : Does the FDA guidance on social media use for multichannel marketing make life easier for pharma companies in Japan or more challenging?

Dr. Eiji Sasahara : Social Media communications are utilized by a variety of stakeholders surrounding pharmaceutical companies, and cross-functional and real-time approaches will be required after implementation of FDA’s guidelines. Under current organizational and IT structure for corporate and product communications, it seems challenging.

Wiley Interface : How can pharma companies in Japan overcome the challenges of the FDA guidance on social media use for multichannel marketing in Japan?

Dr. Eiji Sasahara : Utilization of Social Media is the challenge in total pharmaceutical value chains, including R&D, manufacturing & distribution, sales & marketing, and medical affairs. In some cases, reform of organizational and IT structure will be required at corporate level.

Wiley Interface : Do you see any opportunity with the FDA guidance on social media use for multichannel marketing? If so, who will benefit from it?

Dr. Eiji Sasahara : Social Media will also provide opportunities to implement consumer-driven, digital-based and real-time multichannel marketing practices with pharmaceutical companies heavily dependent on traditional workforce and paper-based materials.

Healthcare consumers should benefit from it first, and their experience with satisfaction will generate both commercial and social values for pharmaceutical companies.

Wiley Interface : What are the trends that you envision in the next few years for healthcare cloud?

Dr. Eiji Sasahara : Maturity of Social Media utilization and expansion of mobile devices (including smartphone/tablet and wearable sensors) will lead to enhancement in Volume, Variety and Velocity (3Vs) of Big Data on the cloud.  To balance benefit and risk of Big Data on uncontrollable cloud computing environment, collaboration between social media managers and data scientists will be the key for consumer-driven innovation in the healthcare industry.

Get your monthly e-newsletter update on future pharma marketing trends and insights from Wiley Interface!

Read more about digital technologies that are shaping up the healthcare in Asia:
Mobile Apps for Everyday Physician Use: An App-reciation
ELearning: The Way Forward in Continuing Medical Education?