Freshman Healthbook

We have just been through an election cycle and the 113th Congress is in lame duck session. We are about to move on to the new Congress in January 2015.  Who did America elect and what is their position on key health care issues?  Who among them are poised to be the next health care leaders in Congress?

There is the obvious political side of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act which is inevitably going to resurface, but there are also perennial issues at play as well – medical innovation, children’s health, mental health, Medicare, reproductive rights and veterans’ health.  The makeup of the new member of the new Congress will be poised to perhaps sway things one way or another in the 114th.

Fortunately, colleagues at a sister agency – TogoRun – here in Washington have put together an overview of incoming members from a healthcare point of view.  It is available for you to download here.  The guide is informative and easy to use – assessing how the new members affect the Congress in the aggregate and also to see one individually close up assessing their health care specific background and positions.  You can look at their background and their history associated with disease-specific issues as well as their professional associations in health care.

I would like to say I wrote this resource, but instead I am relegated to be an advocate for it. Check it out.

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Upclose Look at Pharma and Twitter – A Brief Profile

Last week I posted about the update to the database of pharma and social media use with respect to the increase in audience over last year.  While FDA’s OPDP was so complacent in coming forth in guidelines, the number of followers over the past year doubled.

A further look at the Twitter side of things indicates that not only have numbers gone up, but there are some pretty high KLOUT scores out there.  For those unfamiliar with KLOUT, it is a ranking/scoring service that assesses multiple criteria to arrive at a composite score for a twitter feed, ranking it 1-100.

Another possible revelation for some is about the origin of the feeds.  For those who think in “branded” terms, one might think that most feeds on Twitter run by the medical products industry are US-centric – because the U.S. allows direct-to-consumer promotion. However most feeds we found were outside the U.S., including those with the most influence.

Now let’s look at some of the other characteristics of the profile of pharma on Twitter.

  • First you will recall that the number of pharma-sponsored Twitter feeds contained in the database numbers 275;
  • Of the 275, only 117 (42 percent) are US-based while 158 (58 percent) appear to be outside the US;
  • However of the 117 US-based Twitter feeds, 65 percent (n=77) are updated on a regular or daily basis compared to 49 percent (n=78) outside the U.S.;
  • The highest KLOUT score came not from a feed out of the UK at a highly respectable 88 and the second highest was also out of the UK at 84 – the highest US clout score came in third at 78;
  • Finally, the twitter feeds that are updated on a regular or daily basis represented only 55 percent overall with the rest being updated either on a very irregular basis or not at all.

Which brings us to one other important issue to cover – the number of abandoned properties.  Some companies have many, many Twitter feeds which span a range of purpose.  Some are geographically based, as noted above, some are disease-focused.  Many are announcing opportunities in careers.  Some are focused on corporate social responsibility. But whatever the focused, there are a good number of abandoned properties -a subject written about here before.  It is always a good idea for a corporate brand to keep track of social media assets and delete those no longer in use.

Note:  You can see all of the pharma/device/biotech job tweets on the Eye on FDA Twitter Jobs List here.  You can see the list of pharma/device/biotech industry feeds here.  On the latter, the number represented is currently slightly less than is represented in the database.

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Weekly Roundup 11.7.14

It is a lovely autumn in our nation’s capital – at least looking at the trees and the light.  It is always remarkable how the light angles change and the sun will suddenly appear beneath clouds instead of over them to give us colorful beautiful sunsets.  And in this busy, busy time of year, it is good to have a steady supply of lovely colors to remind us of how good it feels just to experience the moment rather than be caught up in the future or the past.

But here are a few moments from this past week for you to ponder in case you are challenged to stay in the moment:

  • OPDP Issues Untitled Letter - In what has been a record-low year for Warning and Untitled Letters out of FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP), a letter was posted this week – only the 9th of the year.  The letter involved a sales aid where the agency found that while some risk information was included, all of the contraindications were omitted as well as other important risk information and reminded us that further risk information cannot be incorporated by reference.  The agency also found the way in which the product was positioned for its uniqueness also suggested that the product was safer and more effective.
  • Ups and Downs of ODAC – In a vote of 8-3, members of the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee recommended that FDA approve Triferic for the treatment of iron loss to maintain hemoglobin in patients with hemodialysis-dependent stage 5 chronic kidney disease.  The vote of the committee is a recommendation which FDA may or may not follow.  The PDUFA date for deciding on approval is January 24, 2015.  On another note, the same panel voted down a proposed treatment – a pan-deacetylase (pan-DAC) inhibitor – for multiple myeloma 5-2.

FDA has been very quiet of late.  No press releases this month.  No speeches.  No testimonies.  And so that’s it for me this week.  Have a good weekend everyone.

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Pharma Twitter Followers on the Rise

As a highly regulated industry, the pharmaceutical sector was very slow to embrace social media and given the very slow and highly restrictive guidance put out by FDA on that topic, branded participation – particularly on Twitter – is going to be challenged moving forward.  That said, there has been a great deal of pharma activity in social media. The challenge is sometimes keeping track of it all.

As a small contribution to doing so, a few years ago, I began recording industry social media activity of which I become aware in a sortable database.  The platforms tracked include Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest.  Characteristics tracked include the nature of the social media effort – corporate, philanthropic, disease specific, career, etc and information such as the company, the regularity of updates and other material factors.  By no means is this representative of the entire universe of social media activity, but provides insight into a healthy amount of it to gain insight into who is doing what and how often.

One of the characteristics tracked for Twitter is the number of followers and KLOUT scores.  Because there are currently 275 Twitter feeds tracked, keeping up with those numbers is a bit of a chore (if anyone knows of an automatic way to track this, I would be indebted) so once a year with assistance we go back and update the numbers by taking a census.  The last time these numbers were entered was July 2013.  This year, during September and October 2014, the numbers were updated and they were significantly different:

Here one can see that the number of twitter feeds being tracked only increased from 264 to 275.  Some feeds have disappeared and some are merely abandoned.  (Note that the 275 number includes a large number of inactive properties).  The number of twitter feeds followed by industry barely increased.  But perhaps most noteworthy was the rise in the number of followers for industry feeds – which more than doubled from 770,006 in 2013 to 1,505,084 in 2014. Note that these feeds do include some OTC products, as well as device manufacturers.

The rise in followers reinforces the notion that Twitter is an important medium for getting and receiving news and despite the fact product-related news has been effectively regulated out of Twitter, if the numbers continue to increase, it will signal that people still want to hear what industry has to say.

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Weekly Roundup – 10.24.14

Autumn is well upon us.  Nature is showing us how diverse her color palette really is and it is always important to take some time and stop and enjoy it — sometimes hard to do when the demands of world and work bear down — but important nonetheless.  Soon we will be confined to the more limited hues of blues and grays.

  • Ebola Vaccine Development Fast Tracked – On both sides of the pond, there appears every attempt to speed up development of an Ebola vaccine.  This week NIH announced that it is beginning an early human clinical trial of a vaccine candidate – the second.  The candidate vaccine is called VSV-ZEBOV will be assessed for safety and its ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults given two intramuscular doses and will be tested as a single dose.  Another vaccine candidate has testing underway with initial data results expected by the end of 2014.  In a related note, the EMA issued a statement encouraging developers of Ebola vaccines to apply for orphan designation.
  • FDA Commissioner Hamburg Talks on Orphan Products and Rare Diseases – Speaking of rare diseases, FDA Commissioner Hamburg spoke this week a the NORD Rare Diseases and Orphan Products Breakthrough Summit in Alexandria, Virginia – one of many FDA officials present at the meeting.  The title of her talk was “A Pivotal Moment for the Treatment of Rare Diseases” and she used part of her talk to underscore the need for product development respecting Ebola and stated that the agency will do all it can to facilitate access to investigational products, responding “as flexibly as we can”.  Among other things, she underscored the need understand the impact of rare diseases and that while rare, there are enough of them to impact large numbers of people.
  • Blood Products AdComm Set for Early December on Multiple Issues – The Blood Products Advisory Committee has slated December 2 and 3 for a meeting that will consider several issues.  Among them is a session where the panel will hear scientific data related to the long-standing gay male blood donor deferral policy.  Currently FDA’s policy is that men who have had sex with other men at any time since 1977 are currently deferred as blood donors.  The Committee will also be hearing an informational presentation on the first survey of the Rapid Donor Surveillance Project on MERS.

That’s it for me this week. Go out and look at all the colors.  And have a good one.

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