AstraZeneca has deleted its "Take on Depression" Facebook page due to Facebook's recent decision to disallow the blocking of public page Wall comments  (Source:
Pharmaceutical companies who have lost the privilege to block public comments on their Walls are either deleting their Facebook's or will monitor them daily

Facebook 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 communities."

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 others. 

"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 overnight."

The FDA currently does not have guidelines for "online engagement," but insists it is working on the matter. 

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