Checking in on Pharma and YouTube

My recent hiatus here on Eye on FDA was not planned or even intentional, it was only a reflection of a very busy schedule lately.  What can I say, except that I'm back Jack!

It has been some time since checking into the use of YouTube by the medical products industry, so that is what we're doing today.  

YouTube use in general continues to expand unabated.  As of March, 2010, YouTube was uploading 24 hours of video every sixty seconds and in May, was exceeding 2 billion viewings per day.  According to this great info panel on the Web Site Monitoring Blog, the average person is spending 15 minutes a day on YouTube and more video has been uploaded in the past 60 days on YouTube than was created by all three major broadcast networks over a 60 year period.  

What share of that does pharma have?  Pretty slender as it turns out.  

For the most part, the medical products industry has approached YouTube with a mentality of "if you build it, they will come" which hasn't worked out so well.  Many channels have been created and apparently simply left on their own – with some channels not having had anyone check in for months and months.  Some have only a single video.  

By my count, there are at least 16 channels put together by pharma companies.  One sees some distinctions perhaps in the regulatory cultures of some of the companies, as the ability to comment on videos has been disabled in about two-thirds of the channels, though five do currently allow viewer commentary.  

A surprising number of channels come from Europe, including those from Sanofi Pasteur and Tibotec.  Pfizer's ClinicalTeam channel is listed as a United Kingdom channel and Pfizer has set up a channel called PfizerEurope.  

Some channels have disappeared.  In our last YouTube check up, there were two channels that appealed to patients with videos that featured other patients with specific conditions – diabetes and asthma.  They were sanofi-aventis' goinsulin channel and AstraZeneca's MyAsthmaStory.  The former still exists, the latter does not.  

And likewise, there are new additions such as Astellas, which added a channel in February 2010.  Also, in the last quarter of 2009, Tibotec added a Hepatitis C channel called TibtecHCV to buttress its existing two HIV-related channels – Tibotecvih (French) and Tibotecinfosida (Spanish).  Interestingly, however, none of the three appear to be regularly maintained.  

The most continued and concerted effort is still with Johnson & Johnson's channel JNJHealth, which houses a vast number of videos on a wide array of health topics.  This channel has a fair number of subscribers and clearly there has been a dedicated attempt to socialize the channel by subscribing to other channels and identifying other channels as "friends" – something that few of the other pharma channels have done.

There are perhaps a number of reasons that video has not been a great social media tool for pharma, not the least of which are regulatory considerations.  However, it stands to reason that, done correctly, there is a large and untapped potential not being realized for reaching patients and motivating them to clinical trials, educating them about risk and proper use of treatments, raising awareness of medical conditions and telling the largely untold story about the extent and reach of corporate philanthropy by companies.  But it will certainly require much more than an "if you build it they will come" approach.  

It is likely I have missed some channels that exist.  If so, please drop me a note.  Thanks.  


NOTE:  A FEW DAYS FOLLOWING PUBLICATION, ONE COMPANY (NOVARTIS) BEGAN ACCEPTING MODERATED COMMENTS ON ITS CHANNEL.  AS A RESULT, THIS CHART WAS UPDATED ON JUNE 17 TO REFLECT THAT CHANGE.  


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