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Regulated Industries

We can help you with an integrated policy towards social media and work with you to decide what is appropriate for your company.

At a corporate level you there may be regulations governing what you can and cannot say with social media. Stock market and specific product regulations are obvious examples of this.

At a product level there can be industry and country-specific issues. Taking pharmaceuticals as our example of a highly regulated industry there are key differences. In the USA you can advertise prescription medicines whereas in the UK you cannot.

Several companies have already fallen foul of UK regulations on advertising due to mismanagement of their social media efforts, both at a corporate level and by unapproved use of social media by employees.

Two examples

In 2011, Bayer was reprimanded by the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority, part of the ABPI by using twitter to announce information on two prescription-only medicines; an erectile dysfunction medicine and a painkiller. As twitter can reach all users it was therefore inappropriate to use social media to promote the launch as it would not be restricted to health professionals.

The full report from the PMCPA can be found here Case 2402 and a report in the Financial Times can be found here.

In a separate case PMCPA Case 2455, Allergan experienced related difficulties with social media. That case involved a twitter message sent from a company employee to an individual in a patient organisation. The employee had used a personal twitter account and had intended the message to be private - as in an email - but in fact both followers of the recipient and members of the organisation were able to read it. The details of this case can be read at the PMCPA site but stress the need for care in the area of social media, the need for training of personnel and the need for clear internal social media policies.

Adopting new approaches

For such industries a variety of different approaches might be taken. For instance, many of these regulated industries are research intensive so how about using that expertise to look at relevant social media.

Here is a publication that is interesting and relevant: ‘Towards detecting influenza epidemics by analyzing Twitter messages’ by Aron Culotta. It is early days for such approaches so plenty of opportunity to generate positive interaction.

Aron Culotta

Southeastern Louisiana University Department of Computer Science Hammond, LA 70402


Rapid response to a health epidemic is critical to reduce loss of life. Existing methods mostly rely on expensive surveys of hospitals across the country, typically with lag times of one to two weeks for influenza reporting, and even longer for less common diseases. In response, there have been several recently proposed solutions to estimate a population’s health from Internet activity, most notably Google’s Flu Trends service, which correlates search term frequency with influenza statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In this paper, we analyze messages posted on the micro-blogging site Twitter.com to determine if a similar correlation can be uncovered.