Novartis : Saving face
Social media are not a law unto themselves.
Novartis, a Switzerland-based pharmaceuticals company, shows no sign of its quoted reaction to official criticism over its use of Facebook on a product site.
Novartis was requested recently by the US Federal Drugs Administration (FDA) to stop its use of a Facebook Share ‘widget’ on the product website of Tasigna, a company-produced treatment for leukaemia sufferers. The FDA last week posted a copy of the request on its own website, detailing several criticisms, chief among them that the content generated by the widget (and which site users were thus encouraged to share through Facebook) was not explicit, as the regulations decree, about the risks associated with use of the drug. The issue was covered by major news sources, specialist journals and blogs, according to Google searches for ‘Novartis Tasigna’ and ‘Tasigna Facebook’.
In the five days following publication of the first stories there was no reference to it on Novartis’ global corporate site or US site, including in their respective newsrooms, nor on the Tasigna site. There is no sign of the company’s official written statement, quoted in the coverage, in which it agreed to remove the Facebook widget immediately from the Tasigna site (as was done) and discuss with the FDA its concerns. Its official Twitter feed (highlighted in the corporate newsroom) is similarly silent. The information on the Tasigna site itself about risks was not at issue.
Communications in the highly regulated pharmaceuticals industry are notoriously sensitive to the views of lawyers, so hard and fast judgements are difficult to reach. However, on the face of it Novartis appears to have chosen not to make any acknowledgement on its web properties of its public chastisement by the FDA despite having issued an official statement to media organisations and complied with the removal order. Presumably it does not want to risk fanning the flames of what has remained a relatively minor reputation flare-up. But, in doing no more than it was forced to in responding to the FDA and media interest, it has missed the opportunity to at the least make its official statement available online, where it could readily be found by anyone concerned by the reports elsewhere.
In its statement as quoted, Novartis undertook to “assess all of our Web assets and materials based on these concerns”. One important point it should already have learned is that Facebook – and other social media – are part and parcel of those web assets and cannot be considered in isolation.http://www.tasigna.com
First published on 10 August, 2010