Last week, Abbott launched the first in a series of podcasts about how to live with Crohn's disease. The online radio shows feature unbranded healthcare information, and are part of Abbott's initiative to communicate directly with patients with Crohn's disease.
"People are going online to get information about all sorts of things, including chronic diseases," said Michelle Johnson, manager of public affairs for Abbott. "Podcasting seemed to work particularly well for Crohn's disease."
According to Johnson, many people with Crohn's are first diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35—a key demographic for podcast users. "It just made sense to create an online educational resource to give patients information in a manner that they are used to searching for."
Topics will range from diet and nutrition to social stigma, relationships, and depression. "These particular topics really resonated with people living with Crohn's disease," Johnson told Pharm Exec. "These are really key lifestyle issues for things they are dealing on a daily basis."
The series is available only on Abbott's unbranded subsite Crohnsonline.com, which offers general health information about the disease. People interested in learning about Abbott's Crohn's treatment HUMIRA (adalimumab) can click a link that will take them to the branded drug site.
Abbott currently has two 10-minute podcasts on the site, with four more in the hopper. The first features a Q&A with gastroenterologist Dr. David Rubin, the second has an interview with registered dietitian Tracie Dalessandro. Options are available to pause the recording and to download the podcast to a personal media player; however, the podcast cannot be accessed through popular podcast providers such as iTunes.
The assumption is that Abbott—much like other pharma companies dabbling in Web 2.0—does not want the general public to leave comments about drug use on iTunes or other treatment options.
Johnson disagrees, stating that since the podcast series just launched, Abbott is still assessing its distribution options. "In the future, we will certainly look for opportunities to make the podcasts widely available," Johnson said. "Because we are in a regulated environment, we can only operate within a certain amount of space. But as we continue to get response and feedback, we will look at comments in the future. We want to get comments back from people."
Richard Newman, president of digital marketing agency Greater Than One told Pharm Exec that Abbott's podcasts are a high-quality online offering, but should not be considered social media.
"We are not seeing a lot of advances in terms of social media with the pharma companies that we work with," Newman said. "What this begins to do is create a relationship between a brand and a group of people that want to sign up for it. That's a step in the right direction."