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Teva Canadian MS Community: No Win for the Company

Teva is closing its community forum from its Canadian multiple sclerosis education website because of Canadian healthcare regulations around dissemination of information relating to prescription drugs.

You’ll read the explanation if you visit the Teva MS website, but keep reading for the crux of the situation:

I have to agree with Teva’s decision because it becomes a no-win for Teva. If Teva were to hire someone to conform to regulations and actively monitor the site, the patients could claim that Teva would allow only favorable comments when it may in …fact be a perception issue. Teva could be allowing only approved/indicated usage discussions posted, rather than removing unfavorable comments to Teva.

On the other hand, Teva stands to be liable for any damages claimed by patients who said they tried something because of what they had in a Teva-hosted discussion forum even if it was not sanctioned by Teva and even if Teva could have disclaimers abound. If I were a company I would not allow a truly “free” discussion forum, other than one that deals specifically with the approved indication of its drug, and even then would question the utility of this over an actual conversation with a licensed healthcare provider.

I see this as a case of controlling information not for restricting its availability but for the sake of responsibility of how that information is used. Drug information can be used out of context and inadvertently harm patients.

On the other hand, non-profit patient advocacy sites will host these discussion forums, and they appear to legally be able to do so. It would be interesting to see how these associations deal with legal situations that could potentially arise from patients being injured or harmed by information shared on the site that may not be accurate or even safe for others. This is a delicate balance of sharing information to help while keeping that Hippocratic “do not harm” oath in mind. Even if the intention is good, injury can occur because of misuse (and that misuse does not have to be intentional, either, it could be accidental).

But the reality is, drug companies are more likely to get sued than non-profits!

First heard from: Nat Bourre

Updated: June 30, 2013 — 8:05 am

1 Comment

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  1. Hi Jane. Thanks for linking back to my article. I have been involved in several meetings to help Canadian pharma marketers understand what they can, cannot, should and should not do on social media from both a regulatory and strategic perspective. There is a split between those who oppose our guidelines and would prefer to be allowed to do DTC in a consumer-type fashion, and those who prefer the strict guidelines that keeps them out of trouble from regulations and from corporate liabilities. At the end of the day, social media is a tactic. In Canada, the guidelines for DTC in social media are the same as DTC for other media such as television, radio, print. If a Canadian pharma company feels that they cannot do DTC with other media because the guidelines prohibit them from reaching their objectives, then they probably should not do it on social media either, as the same rules exist. By the way, this is a great blog. I’m your newest subscriber 🙂

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