Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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Ad agencies “intend to do right” by Wikipedia, But Are They?

Ad agencies “intend to do right” by Wikipedia, But Are They? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Following a roundtable discussion earlier this year, a number of communications firms and professional bodies have issued a statement on their commitment to Wikipedia and its continued credibility.

Published on Wikipedia, the statement was backed by more than 30 leading firms, including Ogilvy & Mather, FleishmanHillard and Weber Shandwick. Other signatories active in the healthcare sector include Porter Novelli, Edelman and the Chandler Chicco Companies.

The statement was also supported by professional organisations the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, the Institute for Public Relations and the Council of Public Relations Firms.

“We recognise Wikipedia's unique and important role as a public knowledge resource,” said the statement, acknowledging the growth of the website as the first port of call for patients and healthcare professionals when it comes to healthcare information.

“We also acknowledge that the prior actions of some in our industry have led to a challenging relationship with the community of Wikipedia editors,” it added, before going on to commit to abide by the following principles:

  • To seek to better understand the fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects
  • To act in accordance with Wikipedia's policies and guidelines, particularly those related to 'conflict of interest'
  • To abide by the Wikimedia Foundation's terms of use
  • To the extent we become aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms, to investigate the matter and seek corrective action, as appropriate and consistent with our policies
  • Beyond our own firms, to take steps to publicise our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly.
Pharma Guy's insight:

IMS Health should sign on too: A Wikipedia "group" called WikiCorrect-Health, which claims to train "pharma companies on how to use Wikipedia ethically and also legally" was/is acting in stealth mode.

It appears, however, that the group is not behaving ethically. They have so far not revealed who they are but claim to be "a team of 5" at this point. It is against Wikipedia policy for multiple people to use a single account. Therefore, whoever they are, WikiCorrect-Health lacks transparency and is NOT operating "legally" by Wikipedia standards. And they get paid by pharma to help the industry "use Wikipedia ethically and also legally???

After reading my blog post -- "Is Pharma Working with Wikipedia to Ensure Its Drug Information is Accurate and Up-to-Date?" -- Gary Monk suggested that "one or more of them [WikiCorrect-Health] may work for IMS Health, in which case there is again a serious lack of transparency."

I think Gary Monk is correct about this group being IMS Health. Here's why:

In a recent report, IMS reminded us that Wikipedia articles on health issues are "in flux" and that there is a need for knowledgeable editors to keep the information as current and unbiased as possible. "There is yet to be established a broad approach to funneling the vast resources of healthcare institutions, the pharmaceutical industry, regulators and patient groups into the information that is being used by millions of patients," said IMS.

IMS further said that "none of the traditional stakeholders for patient information – such as regulators and pharmaceutical companies - is actively engaged in the development of information or in ensuring its correctness."

My guess is that after (or even before) reading the IMS report, PhRMA and/or several pharma companies hired IMS Health to be its "eyes and ears" and sometimes its "editor" on Wikipedia. The fact that they are doing this in stealth mode, however, is not cool.

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FDA Guidance Says Companies Have Broad Leeway to Correct Misinformation

FDA Guidance Says Companies Have Broad Leeway to Correct Misinformation | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a new draft guidance document on social media focused on how companies can correct blatant misinformation contained on the Internet and social media channels, long a source of frustration for FDA-regulated companies.

The agency is now out with its third social media draft guidance, Internet/Social Media Platforms: Correcting Independent Third-Party Misinformation About Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices.

As FDA explains in the guidance, the Internet has made is considerably easier for outside third parties—from other companies to consumers—to disseminate information about drugs, including factually incorrect or misleading information.

And that information sometimes finds its way onto websites where the sponsor of a drug product has the opportunity to correct misinformation about the product. The question companies have had until now is, ”How can we do so without falling afoul of FDA regulations on product promotion?”

The fear of some companies was that by responding with anything other than full and complete prescribing information, the companies might be cited for misleading promotion. And in many forums, companies are constrained in the space they have to respond to someone.

The good news for companies: FDA says it "does not intend to object" if a company "voluntarily corrects misinformation [posted by a third party unaffiliated with the company] in a truthful and non-misleading manner"—a manner described in FDA's latest draft guidance.

Pharma Guy's insight:

In Example 11 of the guidance document, FDA says:

“A firm finds a webpage about its product that was written by an independent third party on an Internet-based, interactive, collaboratively edited encyclopedia. The firm may choose to contact the author of the webpage and provide corrective information to the author.”


Obviously, FDA is referring to Wikipedia when it talks about “an independent third party on an Internet-based, interactive, collaboratively edited encyclopedia.” Although pharma companies may be able to contact the author of “misinformation” by leaving a message on the author’s talk page, that message may be ignored.


There’s a better way, which I wrote about in Pharma Marketing News.


In that article (find it here ), I wrote about the “right way” to correct Wikipedia articles:


Recall that back in June, 2012, Dr. Bertalan Meskó (@Berci), in an open letter to pharma, urged the pharmaceutical industry to employ Wikipedia editors and thus "funnel [their] vast resources" to help.


"Based on the pretty negative past encounters between pharma employees and Wikipedia editors (pharma employees trying to edit entries about their own products in a quite non-neutral way), we advise you to employ a Wikipedia editor if you want to make sure only evidence-based information is included in entries about your own products,” said Berci in 2012 (see


“Appointing someone from within your company as a 'spokesperson' in Wikipedia who would perform all edits on behalf of the company is an excellent way to update those entries," said Berci.


You would think that the pharmaceutical industry would have jumped at the chance to establish a liaison with Wikipedia to help edit articles about their products. At least one pharma company, in fact, did seem to endorse the idea, at least in principle.


Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) responded to Berci via Twitter: "We look for patient safety issues & react. Its important to stick to Wikipedia policies too, so all transparent." But when asked by Berci if BI had posted anything online about this, BI responded "No at this point in time we have not....yet." He remains optimistic.


In a PMN survey, 57% of respondents agreed that pharma companies should appoint an official Wikipedia editor (see chart above and survey summary here: 

Joel Finkle's curator insight, June 19, 2014 1:03 PM

More on FDA and social media use

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Drug Safety Information in the Digital Age — NEJM Finds Fault with FDA & Wikipedia, But Not Pharma

Drug Safety Information in the Digital Age — NEJM Finds Fault with FDA & Wikipedia, But Not Pharma | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

The Internet is increasingly redefining the ways in which people interact with information related to their health. The Pew Internet Project estimates that more than half of all Americans sought health information online in 2013, mostly through search engines such as Google and websites such as Wikipedia and WebMD.

In this digital age, engaging with new media offers an unparalleled opportunity for medical and public health professionals to find information they need and to interactively reach out to patients and their support networks. One domain where these capabilities may have far-reaching effects that are currently undefined is drug safety. As the volume of health-related information on the Internet has grown, important questions have emerged. How are messages from regulators — for example, warnings against using a drug in a specific patient population — diffused digitally? And are the messages still accurate when they reach the general population?

Overall, 23% of Wikipedia pages were updated more than 2 weeks after the FDA warning was issued (average, 42 days), and 36% of pages remained unchanged more than 1 year later (as of January 2014).

Public health officials have historically focused on printed drug labels and “Dear Health Care Provider” letters from the FDA, but new technologies offer the opportunity to reach patients and physicians more efficiently and effectively. We believe the first step should be improving the accessibility of drug information available through the FDA's website.

Another approach to promoting accurate dissemination of drug-safety information is active participation in the online curation of medical information. In 2008, the FDA partnered with WebMD to bring public health announcements to all registered users and to quickly integrate this information into WebMD's suite of Web pages. A digital strategy for drug safety could expand this model to include other sites that are highly frequented by the public, including websites for disease-specific patient-support and patient-advocacy organizations. Our findings also suggest that there may be a benefit to enabling the FDA to update or automatically feed new safety communications to Wikipedia pages, as it does with WebMD.

Pharma Guy's insight:

The authors suggest that FDA work with Wikipedia to edit drug safety information on Wikipedia, but do NOT suggest that drug companies take some responsibility to do this. Perhaps NEJM is reluctant to annoy the hand that feeds (advertises with) them?

For more on my response to this, read: 

Should FDA or Pharma Correct/Edit Drug Information on Wikipedia?
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