Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009 | Very few industries are as willing to take risks on new technologies as the biotech industry. Companies will spend millions, and even billions, developing a drug that has a chance to cure a cancer or a device that could change the face of heart surgery.
Yet when it comes to social media, the industry has proven to be risk adverse. In fact, your grandmother is probably more likely to be active on Twitter or Facebook these days than a pharmaceutical, medical device or contract research company.
Among the thousands of life science companies worldwide, only about 30 have active blogs, according to research by Mary Canady, a local industry consultant. And maybe 50 companies have Twitter accounts, she said.
It’s not hard to understand why. On many fronts, federal regulators keep life science companies on a very short leash. And getting tangled up in U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules can be deadly to a start-up that already has to endure a painfully slow, and often elusive, path to profitability.
Hence, many companies don’t want to entertain the risks that come with promoting products through tweets or interacting with the public via a Facebook wall. Most of all, the companies worry about accusations that their social media efforts would be construed as coercing people to use their products, and that they would be opening themselves up to more reports of unintended side effects from their drugs.
But there is a growing sense in the industry that companies are acting against their own self interest by shying away from social media, and also against the interest of public health.