Novartis Social Media Network for Patients - Is This a Good Idea

November 28, 2016

A recent article at Investopedia stated that Novartis has created the world's first social media network for heart failure patients. While there are a number of health related forums that have sections for heart failure patients, the Novartis site appears to be the only active social media site for HF patients.

The article details the value Novartis will receive from the network: “...serve as promotional platforms and help gather important demographic information. Along with patients, connecting with doctors and other practitioners through this medium will be an added benefit to Novartis.” However, the article does not ask an important question – is it a good idea for a social network for patients to be owned and run by a corporation that sells a drug for heart failure (Entresto)? Other important questions include: will Novartis shape messages to promote Entresto and other drugs it sells: will physicians participating on the forum be paid by Novartis and therefore subject to implicit or explicit pressure to promote Novartis drugs?

Most of the copy on the front page of the site does not mention anything about Novartis' involvement. Though if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the front page there is a mention that the site is “powered by Novartis.” At this point, there does not appear to be a lot of activity by patients on the forum and Novartis has done the right thing and identified the author of many of the posts as “Novartis community manager.”

If the site does catch on with the HF patient community, it will be interesting to see how involved Novartis is with shaping and controlling posts there. No doubt Novartis' legal/compliance team has been highly involved in the creation and planning of the site to keep on the right side of the FDA. However, it is hard to imagine that at least some of the content won't be overtly or subtly intended to promote Novartis and its drugs.


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