Pharma Blogs Face Unique Challenges

By Earl Whipple

“PharmExecBlog’s” Andrew Sheivachman has published one of the first stories related to the launch of our blog.

We are presented with some unique challenges  when it comes to mentioning specific products or disease states on our blog, but despite the critical headline, it’s also wrong for anyone to assume that this is how we want things to be.  We believe it is critical for patients and doctors to have accurate information about AstraZeneca medicines. That’s why our corporate website provides a wealth of information about our products. We’ve also provided the number for our information center (1-800-236-9933) in our blog comments policy. Anyone with questions about our medicines can call this number and get answers immediately. We believe that questions about products deserve fast answers, from live people, and we are happy to offer this service.

Can more be done to help provide accurate, balanced and timely information about our products, especially through social media channels? Yes, of course. But what the PharmaExec blog post labels as “close corporate scrutiny,” I see as responsibility.  While adding any extra level of “scrutiny” to the comments we receive may mean it will take longer for us to respond to a comment, this is how we will operate for now.

On my October 19th blog I wrote about  the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) holding a public forum to discuss the role of the Internet and social media tools.  We applaud this decision and look forward to their engagement. In the meantime, we hope our early steps into social media will lead to more meaningful and helpful conversations with those who care about our company and the medicines we make.


  • I’m glad to see you making the jump into having online dialogs with your consumers. You will learn learn something very valuable from listening to them via social media channels.

  • Earl — welcome to the blogosphere. I agree with your point — the review of comments is really about taking responsibility. I too am looking forward to learning more at the public hearing next week.

  • Good luck – Sincerely wish you the best of luck with the blog. No doubt it will be a tremendous challenge but I hope you will find encouragement in the knowledge of the tremendous unmet need pertaining to open, tranparent and and well documented sharing of timely medical information.
    Despite all of our advances in IT, our outdated regulatory policies and procedures are limiting information sharing and at the end of the day, patients and prescribers are not being served very well.
    Hopefully blogs like yours will be key drivers of change.
    John Waddell
    TSM Associates

  • Earl,
    Kudos to AZ for launching a corporate blog with comments. It’s no small thing to manage this in Pharma. I’ll be curious to see where you go with this and if AZ decides this is a sustainable, valuable effort.
    I am curious why there is only one voice? It seems like a multi-person blog would be highly valuable and more sustainable over time? Any insight you can share into that decision?

  • I’ve long thought that it is hard to argue against the hordes of people on the interwebs who truly believe that pharma is a force for evil in this world, citing misrepresentations and rumour and all sorts of other nonsense, when there are no voices from big pharma to refute them. I guess some people take the lack of a big pharma voice online to mean that they have something to hide.
    This leads on to a more direct question: I know someone who works at AstraZeneca and have invited them to write on my blog to give some measure of balance to the online discussion (this came up around the time of the Merck/Elsevier fake journal scandal), but they couldn’t because any public communication has be cleared, ratified, and sanitised by the PR department. The public image of big pharma companies is already fairly terrible: maybe a stranglehold on communication (that only the ‘Senior Editor of the AZ Corporate Communications group’ can break out of) is not the best solution?

  • Absolutely True. Applaud your approach and inroads into social media.