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Monday, March 23, 2009


In last Friday’s post, we explored the possibilities of the pharmaceutical industry using social networks to sign up individuals who are willing to share ailments with other consumers, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies. The idea is to enlist those eligible to participate in clinical tests that could discover solutions for those who have chronic diseases. Two such networks are and There is, of course, a potential privacy problem, when reflecting on the private information users of social networks like Facebook and MySpace display about themselves, some of which has been compromised.

But on the plus side there is always that possibility someone will find that particular group research effort that will alleviate or cure their illness. This blog is, and has been, trying to weigh pros and cons of consumers giving up personal medical data, and, truthfully, it is progressing toward the establishment of electronic medical records which President Obama feels is necessary. We just have to find a way to do it right, with only reputable companies doing the warehousing, and with patients maintaining control. The latter will probably be the major obstacle in the health care industry’s acceptance of this movement.

In the public sector, is the largest database available on the subject listing over 70,000 trials in 163 countries for interested parties to search. A Los Angeles Times article also mentions another database, TrialCheck, from, as well as The piece also mentions the fact that researchers “…hope to tie the records into an automated clinical-trial matching system that will alert doctors and patients alike.” The question is who will oversee all this massive databasing of your private medical information, and just how secure will it be?

A article, “Pharma Tackles the Social Network,” mentions another potential player, Web MD, “…a site complete with interactive tools such as blogs, message boards, ask an expert, etc.,” and 54 million monthly users. Johnson & Johnson’s new acquisition of is an additional example. The article indicates that the drawback to this type of marketing is the human element because social marketing is unpredictable due to its reliability on interactive marketing for results. It also points out there are regulatory risks to be faced by pharmaceutical companies.

Yet another site covered is, created by physicians for physicians to share information. According to, Sermo has established a “strategic collaboration” with Pfizer, producer of the Celebrex, Lipitor, Viagra and Zoloft drugs. You may remember Pfizer as, perhaps, the largest breacher of names and personal data in the pharmaceutical industry. Six data breaches since June of 2007, with the latest May of 2008. Quantities weren’t huge, but neither were they always small. One, in particular, involved 34,000 employees’ names/addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers, and bank and credit card information.

Precisely why I say we have to qualify and regulate any company warehousing this personal medical data, and allow the individual to maintain complete control.

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