A new term for me, courtesy of a vendor who will be carrying out this function for my company within a few weeks. It means blog monitoring, in short, both the posts (like this one) that write about your company or product, as well as the feedback the blog postings generate (like all three of mine). I was aware of activity at my company that scrutinized sites like WebMD and the major disease sites like the various Cancer societies, but now we're talking about a bigger rabbit hole.
We'll be jumping into it headfirst, looking for postings for one of our asthma products. Google and Technorati keyword searches, board tracker software, etc.
An anonymous screen name is not enough to warrant action normally for an adverse event report. That's just not a valid, identifiable patient or reporter. But we've made exceptions in the past if the poster describes a serious adverse event that we have a particular interest in for that product.
I'm a little unsure about the value add for this kind of activity. Last Spring, our pro-active monitoring of Cafe Pharma revealed a very embarrassing post by a named individual in our sales force, that compared physician visits by sales reps to grabbing money from a cookie jar. It still made it to Peter Rost's blog, but we did fast damage control by being aware of it that much sooner. Pharma Blogosphere has information about posing as consumers on blogs, but we've never reached that point, and I doubt we will, considering the scowling glances that our legal folks brought to the table, simply at the mention of monitoring sites.
Recent experience is very interesting. For another, more controversial product, we uncovered artificial blogging activity that was an attempt to create business for law firms. One poster would write "I started taking this medicine, and this terrible thing happened!" and the response would be "That happened to me too! I just got a $100,000 settlement for it though. Check it out!" and the whole thing was an elaborate fake. There would be a banner at the bottom for Dewey, Screwum and Howe law offices. We managed to take action, but my readers will be aware that we were (and still are) awash in legal cases.
Speaking of which, I just participated in a review of a regulatory document for a legally challenged product that was hardly a joy to read, as it was all about patient deaths. As I alluded to in a previous post, there are concerns that the legal case overload will throw off our ability to detect genuine safety signals. If our spontaneous caseload normally equals x% of the background "noise" for a condition or event, but the case load for one particular issue skyrockets and clogs our database, our statistical analysis must be reconfigured to handle that, or else a separate analysis is undertaken to discount those legal cases. The latter is what we've actually done. So for this document, the discussion of legal cases was made separate from the rest.
A special shout-out to those of you who let me know you've added my blog to your Google Reader accounts. Let me know if you got this.