Monday, June 06, 2005

Did you say, “Vioxx Lawsuit?”

Psst…a little secret from the pharma industry has just escaped, thanks to an article in the Financial Post on Friday, June 3rd. It starts,

Several of the world's leading pharmaceutical groups and at least one regulator are in talks to hire a computer consultancy company that has devised software to "spy" on Internet conversations about medicines...

The service scans Web logs -- or blogs -- news groups and forums for exchanges of information between patients.

After a brief description of how the 7,000 web-trawlers will work, the head of Netrank, the company that will undertake the spying, had this to say,

"You could say we are spying, but actually this information is in the public domain. We are doing it for the good of the patient, allowing companies to react more quickly to concerns."

Call me wacky. Call me weird. But corporations working together “for the good of the patient?” I believe that contravenes any corporation’s legal responsibility to work for the good of the share-holder…

How will the spy system work? Well,

It monitors the number of references to selected drugs every day and cross references them with the content of messages, analyzed by phrases including "side effects" and "legal action." Potentially, the system could help drug companies get in touch directly with those who send messages.
When I first read this article I was a little stunned that pharma would do this –spy on bloggers the way the CIA listens in on phone calls? Is no conversation sacred? But that, of course, was a naïve response. I actually think this whole story could be a smokescreen. It will raise some concerns about pharma communicating directly with consumers in these forums (in all countries but the USA and Australia, direct-to-consumer advertising by phrama is illegal or at least severely limited).

The fact is, corporations of all kinds are already watching and commenting on listservs and blogs. But they don’t go by names like “Jane Smith, Merck employee” rather as “Jane Smith, a mom just like you.”

Lots of political and corporate folks have been outed over the last few years by watchful list owners who have tracked suspicious comments back to their originating IP addresses. Big surprise, the comments that look, taste and smell of PR come from corporate IPs with a stake in promoting a certain idea or product.

Be ever watchful. And skeptical. If a comment to your blog reads like PR, odds are good it is PR.

4 Comments:

Blogger Crackpot Press said...

I got diseases...will they send me free stuff?

June 06, 2005  
Blogger Herbinator said...

Technology ... impressive. We all have a "credit" file that corporations have access to. Pretty soon they'll figure out how to do an "opinion" file. One must assume that the security biz has ever-refined files of this nature all ready. Only a matter of time before corporations get access. It will be much longer before laws are passed which allow us access to our files.

And for the record: pharmaceuticals, bad; nature, good; get seniors off drugs; consumer-driven health care; choice in health care; parallel, competing Alternative medical system. Log that!

June 07, 2005  
Blogger Donna said...

crackpot - skip the time lag with the postal system. Check to see what TV and magazine ads are running these days in your state. Then, contact your doctor and ask how he can help you overcome the symptoms described in the ads. Voila! Free drugs for the asking!

June 07, 2005  
Blogger Donna said...

Herbinator - once you're elected to Parliament I expect to see some serious debates on health care policies! We're counting on you!

June 07, 2005  

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