Monday, December 10, 2012

Diabetes Patients and Drugmakers Connect

I came across an interesting article on NPR, “Social Media Help Diabetes Patients (And Drugmakers) Connect.” The article discussed how people with diabetes have used social media to create an online community. The community allows members to share videos with advice on everything from removing an insulin pump to telling your date you have diabetes. The site even offers reviews of products to treat diabetes.  The community has become so influential that drug companies have started to take notice. Some pharmaceutical companies have even gone as far as creating their own social media sties and or sponsoring bloggers.

However this online community is not without its critics. Those in opposition of the site feel that pharmaceutical companies will use social media to promote their gadgets in a deceptive way. And with their being no current regulation critics also fear that this may drive pharmaceutical companies to create false blogs representative of their company to help propel sales. 

The FDA is currently working on guidelines for drug companies and social media to ensure that drug companies are not exploiting the public through the use of social media. True to form the FDA is behind the technology  by forced to draft guidelines after the usage has already posed a potential problem.

This article discusses common concept we have discussed numerous times throughout our course. Is it the place of the government to regulate user generated content and if so where is the line drawn? It seems practical enough now to formulate regulations that protect citizens from being exploited by large pharmaceutical companies, but later how will this form of  governance effect the voice of this online community and network overall?  Will censoring the voices of a few silence the entire group, will it deter participation or will it legitimize the online community as a place to receive honest information and help? It will be interesting to watch these questions get asnwered as these two worlds continue to collide. 


  1. Interesting application of a real world example to class concepts. It reminds me of the bodybuilding websites where different users create their own avatars and rate products and different workout techniques. Consequently, and similarly to how pharmaceutical companies have started creating "false" blogs, several producers of bodybuilding enhancers/products have created "false" avatars and give basically false reviews of heir products to try and shamelessly promote them and increase sales. What has ended up happening, though, is that the owners of the forums delete the accounts of these producers unless the producers first clarify, transparently, that they are representatives of a certain product.

    I think if the government interfered in this sense it might deter participation at the citizen level. I think the responsibility lies on the shoulders of forum management pick whether or not they want their social forum to be one of free reign where individual bloggers would have to exercise caution or one where bloggers that suspiciously promote a certain product constantly.

  2. A very interesting posting, the fact that "The FDA is currently working on guidelines for drug companies and social media to ensure that drug companies are not exploiting the public through the use of social media." Implies that governments are still struggling to find the proper way to manage social media. Although the regulation of user regulated content may be viewed as an infringement on their 1st amendment right the ability of private companies, in this case pharmaceutical companies, to manipulate public opinion and discourse creates an interesting debate within the context of social media. The increased relevancy of social media for citizens to obtain information and for companies to disseminate information will inherently create some problems with the accuracy and objectivity of the content within social media websites. In the United States, as well as in many other nations, government intervention and manipulation is viewed with an eye of skepticism, therefore any intervention by the government to manage content will create a slew of social problems that may impede on the relevancy and legitimacy of social media sites. Thank you very much for an insightful post.

  3. Tarek,

    I think you are on to something, by having the responsibility on the forum management you circumvent having to have the government involved and a level of transparency and legitimacy is given to the forum.

    I do however know that it would be hard to standardize the expectation for authenticity and honesty on the sites by all forum management across the board, but is has worked. The baby formula industry for example has good self regulations because if they or another baby formula manufacturer drops the ball it can have a devastating impact on the entire community.