Social Media and Drug Safety, arranged marriage?

Social media is all about freedom of expression. safety and Pharmacovigilance is about patient safety and utmost confidentiality of patient information and not to mention the huge financial implications of misinformation. Having said that, life sciences organizations have recognized the need for proactively managing risk and having access to information related to patient safety, good or bad, before anybody else. In the light of this realization, there is tremendous pressure on heads of safety to formulate a social media strategy. While there is anxiety on their part as to the implications of such a strategy in terms of cost, productivity and compliance they are also grappling with not having the right guidance from the regulatory authorities.

Despite the challenges, there are some organizations that are making best use of social media while there are a few that got burned in the process. My interest in this subject is more from a technology perspective. What does this mean from an automation, integration and analysis stand point? As such organizations have recognized the need for safety data integration and analysis and started moving towards setting up safety data warehouses. The chatter on social media about adverse events from drug, device or vaccine use becomes another source to be scanned, filtered, reviewed and stored. Each of these activities pose a great challenge for technology implementation as well as effort required to setup the process and maintain it efficiently.

The key to successfully handling these challenges lies in finding answers to questions like:
1. Is our social media strategy in line with our organizational and regulatory policies?
2. What are the technology implications?
3. Is our IT team ready for this challenge?
4. Is the market mature enough to provide solutions and services to assist out IT and Business teams?
5. If not, which of the partners in our Ecosystem can help us develop the right solutions and provide services?

While these are some random thoughts and questions, it has to be seen how the market matures and rises to this challenge. The key is for the industry, as a whole, to figure out the use of social media in safety and Pharmacovigilance context and subsequently identify the right solutions that will provide the necessary support to make this a reality. As long as this doesn’t happen, the early movers will always be at a disadvantage and end up spending lot of effort and money while struggling to justify the return on this investment.

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About Venu Mallarapu

I am currently working as Associate Director at Cognizant Technology Services in their Life Sciences division. I have over 15 years of experience in developing IT Solutions and Services, specifically for Life Sciences industry for about 9 years. I have worked with small to large pharma customers to address various business requirements in R&D, Sales and Marketing areas. IT Service Management is one of my other passions. I blog and write about technology frequently and have also presented at various conferences and workshops on wide variety of topics in technology.

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