The 14 principles consist of brief bullet points and are divided into two sections of seven principles each, covering personal and professional online activities.The document has been welcomed—if not widely celebrated—by the digital pharma community as a good example of corporate transparency and openness. Speaking on his STweM blog ( http://Stwem.com/) on Aug. 17, the day the guidelines were released, Andrew Spong, Editorial Director, Nexus, at the PSL Group, called it "trust enabling," a "spur to ethical conduct," and heralding "a new era for healthcare communications."
Different Strokes For Different Folks
Where Roche can be said to be breaking new ground—and where it is also laying itself open to criticism—is in its attempt to bring structure to the kind of ambivalent behavior that obscures the dividing line between personal and professional use of social media. Coming from a US legal perspective, Arnie Friede of http://FDALaw.com/, in an Aug. 17 post on the EyeOnFDA blog, noted the principles "suggest that employees can speak 'about Roche' in some kind of 'personal capacity' ... without providing clear ground rules about the permissible content of these communications." He adds that while the guidance document amounts to a "nice touch" from a PR/perception-of-transparency perspective, "absent clear rules about what things may be discussed ... the new standards may create more problems than they solve."
Not surprisingly, Sabine Kostevc, Roche's head of Corporate Internet and Social Media, disagrees. She told Pharm Exec: "Before this set of guidelines, we had a very elaborate document with do's and don't's as well as many references to some very detailed SOPs [standard operating procedures]. It is a key learning from that document that we needed a shorter and more basic first reference that was not too long to scare people away from reading it at all."