Facebook Forces Drug Companies To Open Their Walls

By Jennifer Moire Comment

Pharmaceutical companies are losing a special privilege on Facebook today — the ability to block public comments on a Facebook wall.

Turns out, the heavily regulated nature of their industry, and penalties for marketing materials on the Internet, resulted in very constricted and tightly controlled Facebook pages and groups from drug companies.

(Our sister site, Inside Facebook, gives some valuable background on the issue by explaining why drug companies were slow to engage on social networks.)

To alleviate these concerns, Facebook enabled drug companies to close off their walls to comments and in some cases, disallow likes, bypassing the issue of having to respond to every complaint or censor unwanted posts.

It was an exclusive right that no other companies enjoyed on Facebook. Until today. And some pharmaceutical companies are not happy about the turnabout.

According to DailyTech, Facebook says the change was made to “help encourage an authentic dialogue on pages.” Facebook added 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.”

For example, DailyTech notes that Pfizer has a Facebook page for patients suffering from hemophilia and multiple sclerosis. The drug giant 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, like Johnson & Johnson and AstraZenaca, have deleted or plan to delete their pages altogether. One of AstraZenaca’s sites, “Take on Depression,” was closed Friday after receiving more than 1,100 likes, according to the Washington Post.

In news reports, it’s not clear what prompted the social media giant to make the change. Tony Jewell, spokesman for AstraZeneca, has explained the drug company’s perspective to several media outlets, including the Washington Post and DailyTech:

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.

Readers, what do you think of Facebook’s policy change allowing comments on the walls of drug companies?