You can’t trust those Brits. I get a super exclusive on the Sermo-Pfizer deal and those damn Brits at the FT break the press embargo. So much for “honour” amongst journalists!
This is the latest version of Big Pharma’s experiment to figure out how to replace the incredibly inefficient way it researches, sells to and communicates with doctors. The very baby steps of starting to cut those detail forces are just starting to be taken, but while those empires slowly get dismantled over the coming decade(s), something needs to be put into its place. eDetailing via video has been a bust so far, and putting those hot cheerleaders into the doctor’s office is getting more and more expensive.
So the deal is that Pfizer (and of course soon other pharmas) will be able to put information into the social networking site. This has great opportunity and great peril for big Pharma. Of course there’s lots of information that they can contribute, and lots of contacts that they can make. But on the other hand, they are definitely losing control over the message.
Here’s what the press release (still embargoed but not, if you see what I mean) says:
Pfizer, working together with Sermo’s physician community and
other Sermo partners, plans to pursue a number of key objectives
through this collaboration, including:
- Discover, with physicians, how best to transform the way medical
information is exchanged in the fast-moving social media environment
- Create an open and transparent discussion with physicians through the innovative channel offered by online exchange
- Engage with the FDA to define guidelines for the use of social media in communications with healthcare professionals
- Work with physicians to develop a productive exchange between pharmaceutical professionals and the Sermo community
In other words Pfizer doesn’t really know what to expect. Of course
there’s lots of great clinical information in the world of Pharma, much
of which doesn’t get out to doctors. So they might be helped by that.
On the other hand you don’t have to read much of what Marcia Angel
and John Abramson write to figure out that the way that information is
presented to doctors isn’t exactly unbiased much of the time. And that
bias converts into lots of branded product scripts being written when a
generic will do nicely instead.
Any information placed within Sermo (or any social networking site)
by Pfizer is by definition going to be validated and commented upon by
lots of physicians and also voted on in Sermo’s model. And included in
“lots of physicians” are many who don’t like pharma and are very
suspicious about it indeed. I am sure that Sermo has lots of these
doctors in its midst and I am equally sure that they would be delighted
to get their say on pharma’s message.
Now of course this is baby steps and no matter how big this or any
other deal it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the tens of billions
spent on detailing, CME, samples and trips to Hawaii. But it’s a start.
So if pharma really is prepared to take the plunge, the conversation
might just be about to get a whole lot more honest. Which I think will
be great for patients, great for doctors and great for society. I’m not
sure how great it may end up being for Pfizer and big Pharma. But it
seems that Sermo is now too big to ignore, and I’m sure that the
several other social networking sites for doctors are following right