Yes I work for a pharmaceutical company. And yes I work in social media. And yes the two can go together. In fact I feel very strongly about pharma and social media and I can get quite angry by those who say pharma should not be using social media – be it because they believe it is too risky for pharma to participate in or because they think pharma is a big money-grabbing unethical monster.
The reality is that whatever your thoughts on the industry it is an industry that sits on huge amounts of health and disease information that could potentially benefit a great deal of people. Strip away all the information that relates to products and brands and you still have a wealth of information around how pathogens work or how chronic diseases develop and progress in the human body.
And we are not talking about general, top level information with no real merit but highly scientific information based on years of rigorous scientific research and experimentation performed by highly qualified and experienced scientists. Currently a large amount of this information sits in paper format gathering dust in filing cabinets or hidden away in secure databases. Surely it would be more valuable to share this information and make it available for everyone?
Another reason why Pharma should be playing a larger role in the provision of disease information is the real issue of bogus or “quack” health information that is so readily available online. Currently doing a search for disease information often leads to results, on the first page, of natural “cures” and remedies. I am actually a big believer in the benefits of natural remedies as I have experience the benefits of taking lysine supplements when I have a cold sores but I would seriously question anyone who suggests that taking a health supplement would cure a disease such as cancer. Doing a search for “hypothyroidism cure” on Google, for example, brings up this as the first result: http://healthwyze.org/index.php/curing-hypothyroidism.html I am sure that following this advice would actually be very beneficial and have a positive outcome on my hypothyroidism – however would it cure it? I doubt it.
This of course then highlights the very real health dangers to patients who do follow this “quack” advice and stop taking their medication in favour of natural supplements instead. Whilst natural remedies have proven benefits they face far less regulation than pharmaceutical products and can have serious side effects and patients should consult their physician before stopping their medication – natural remedies may indeed be of benefit to them but only under medical advice and not under the advice of a “quack” website.
I would love to see healthcare companies playing a greater role in health information provision both via more traditional channels but also by active participation online. Done from a medical standpoint, as opposed to a marketing standpoint, the sharing of medical and disease information would be very beneficial to health information seekers online. And hopefully if reputable healthcare organisations provided more information and invested in SEO around this information it would potentially push the “quacks” further down the search results which would be a benefit to everyone.