More than medicine

26 05 2009

Hot on the heels of discussions about Pharma and digital media – GSK has recently launched a corporate blog More Than Medicine. They aren’t the first Big Pharma to do so, Johnson & Johnson is also present in the blogosphere with JNJ BTW.

The idea behind the blogs is to create a more comfortable dialogue between these large overarching organisations and the end-product consumers (i.e. you and me).

J&J: “Everyone else is talking about our company, so why can’t we?

GSK: “Our goal is to encourage an open, productive discussion about a range of topics .. that doesn’t sound like it’s written in ‘legalese’.

Already GSK has been called out for having pseudonymous bloggers – but while it might somewhat detract from their claim to broad openness, it’s hardly a rare thing amongst bloggers (ummm… does yours truly qualify?*) Relationships don’t have to be built up on a first name basis.

Already the two blogs have very different styles, and showcase positive ways in which Pharma can successfully harness this new media.

To me the JNJ BTW seems very much about putting a face to the corporation (perhaps this is why its bloggers are not anonymous). The blog name includes the company’s, and most of the content seems to be directly related to J&J activities and social responsibility.

On the other hand while GSK’s logo is all over the More Than Medicine interface (astute readers might also note the “Intended for U.S. residents only” disclaimer there too, ProTip: the internet does not work like that…) the topics and purpose seem more generic to the pharmaceutical and health industries overall – with very little discussion on GSK’s direct corporate activities. Will this change?

At this point I’ll declare my own conflict of interest … almost all my current portfolio is GSK related, so perhaps I have some bias. That aside, I find the More Than Medicine‘s approach more appealing. Articles like this one – on how patents benefit patients – highlight how a blog is perfect platform for companies to use everyday language to explain corporate concepts that consumers perceive negatively.

Of course, no one should expect a company like GSK, so heavily invested in innovative medicines, to be against patents – here, they can make a simple case of how patents are a way of rewarding pharmaceutical companies and allowing them to fund their next breakthrough. Remove these rewards and you’ll get less initial investment, and less medicines reaching the end-market. The “health-care timecapsule” is an effective metaphor.

Patents are almost easy to defend in this manner. Patent extensions, however less so. If innovation is involved (new formulation, indication or delivery), I’d be inclined towards them – but here in Australia it appears to have been decided that extensions should be granted because drugs aren’t launched down under until after the US and/or Europe. Now if the patents, aren’t extended, the big guys might not launch their drugs here at all, but the extensions discourage investment from generics makers, who could be argued to provide the same drugs cheaper and more reliably (i.e. they won’t stop when the patent runs out). Who wins there?

*how pseudonymous is pseudonymous?




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