isn't exactly known for useful privacy
features, but it made an exception for pharmaceutical companies who
didn't want public discussions on their page Walls. Now, Facebook is pulling a 180-degree
shift by revoking these companies' privileges and forcing most of them to have
open Walls starting Monday.
It took years for the pharmaceutical companies to create Facebook pages because
they feared users could write negative statements about their products all over
their page Walls. Also, these companies were worried that users could write
about bad side effects and encourage/advertise off-label use. Facebook finally
gave them the exclusive ability to block public comments on their page Walls.
"Pharmaceutical companies have been at the shallow end of the social media
pool because it's such a highly regulated and conservative industry," said
Steve Woodruff, a social media consultant.
Many pharmaceutical companies have pages with updates on their particular
medications as well as facts and stories to help those with certain ailments
and diseases. For instance, Pfizer has a Facebook
page for those with hemophilia as well as multiple sclerosis.
But now, Facebook has decided to disallow the blocking of public comments on
most of these companies' page Walls, and many of the drug companies are not
happy about it. According to Andre Noyes, manager of public policy
communications for Facebook, the social networking giant "thinks these
changes will help encourage an authentic dialogue on pages."
Facebook noted that it will allow some companies to continue blocking public
comments, but most will lose this privilege. The companies that will become
open are those focused on the company itself or "patient-specific
While companies like Amgen, maker of cancer drugs like Neulasta and Vectibix,
and Sanofi, maker of insulin products like Apidra and Lantus for diabetics,
plan to maintain their Facebook pages despite the change in page Wall privacy,
others have deleted or plan to
delete their Facebook pages altogether.
"We're very strongly committed to social media, but we have to make sure
that the amount of time and resources spent on [monitoring it for problems] is
appropriate," said Tony Jewell, spokesman for AstraZeneca.
AstraZeneca isn't the only pharmaceutical
provider that feels this way. Johnson & Johnson is closing
four of its Facebook pages due to Facebook's recent change.
Companies who don't delete their Facebook's worry that they'll have to use
additional resources to monitor their page Walls on a daily basis. The reason
for constant monitoring is their fear of adverse event reports (AERs), which would
be a result of a user posting about a negative reaction to a certain company
medication, and the information potentially qualifying as an AER. This must
then be filed with the Food and Drug Administration, which will lead to
reevaluation of the product's safety.
Despite these fears, Jonathan Richman, group director for the marketing agency
Possible Worldwide, thinks the drug industry is overreacting to the Facebook
changes. He has consulted for AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and many
"Some companies are paralyzed by the idea of what could happen," said
Richman. "It's not like people are waiting in the wings to submit adverse
event reports. I don't think we're going to see a change in consumer behavior
The FDA currently does not have guidelines for "online engagement,"
but insists it is working on the matter.