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Aug16
AstraZeneca Employee Edits Wikipedia Entry & Violates Promotional Regulations
An interesting post on the blog Pharmalot illustrates some of the dangers of socialredpen.gif media for pharmaceutical companies.  Ed Silverman, author of the blog, cited a report from the Times of London focusing on an edit an AstraZeneca employee made to Seroquel’s Wikipedia entry.  Seroquel is a psychotropic agent indicated for the treatment of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  According to the Times:

“[R]eferences to claims that Seroquel, a drug developed by AstraZeneca, which allegedly made teenagers 'more likely to think about harming or killing themselves' were deleted by a user of a computer registered to the drug company.”

The original Wikipedia entry said: “Despite a general National Institutes of Health recommendation against its use in children or those under 18, as well as a known risk that teenagers taking the drug ‘may be more likely to think about harming or killing themselves or to plan or try to do so,’ Seroquel is controversially marketed to parents of moody and irritable teenagers in magazines such as Parade Magazine and TV Guide.

The AstraZeneca employee changed it to this: “Seroquel is controversially marketed to parents of moody and irritable teenagers in magazines such as Parade Magazine and TV Guide.”
Not only is this edit questionable because it reduces the accuracy of the Wikipedia entry, but it violates the FDA’s fair balance regulations.  Any pharmaceutical executive promoting a product online and off must ensure that information about a drug’s side effects is made available to the public.  Seroquel caries a “black box” warning stating that “antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults. . . Anyone considering the use of Seroquel or any other antidepressant in a child adolescent or young adult must balance this risk with the clinical need.”  According to the Seroquel.com Website, the FDA has not approved the product for use in individuals "under the age of 18 years."

An AstraZeneca spokesperson contacted Silverman and said: “We are investigating the change made on July 11 and once we find out more, we can let you know . . . Patient safety is a priority and we make it a point to provide complete and accurate information to people who need to know - patients, doctors and anyone else.”

This incident clearly indicates that pharmaceutical companies should be thinking about how they can minimize the risk employees will expose the company to potential FDA citations and product liability lawsuits due to their use of social media technologies.  

7 Comments/Trackbacks




I agree that it was improper for the AstraZeneca employee to edit the entry. I don't work for a pharma company myself. I have no opinion on Seroquel. But I was somewhat taken aback by the tone of the entire paragraph mentioned. Particularly the ending:

"...Seroquel is controversially marketed to parents of moody and irritable teenagers in magazines such as Parade Magazine and TV Guide."

The tone of that sentence is so flip and condescending that I can't see how it even qualifies as unbiased information. It just sounds snarky and overly clever.

If it were expressed more objectively, I would take it more seriously. As it is, it sounds as if it were written by someone with his or her own agenda. A competitor, perhaps?

Lisa:

Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure if a competitor wrote the last part of that sentence. However, I'm more apt to think that someone who didn't agree with AstraZeneca's marketing efforts wrote it.

It is amazing how fast all edits are scrutinized. This is what makes Wikipedia such a great resource. The editors are extremely dedicated.

Social media has such a huge impact on companies. Large corporations have blogs and they surely have employees monitoring everything being said about them on the net. Like you alluded to Fard, it probably would be a good idea to have some sort of policies over what is acceptable and what is not regarding social media.

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yea, looks like the guys at wiki are more strict in follow due course, I think its primarily due to all the critisim that they used to experience in the past with people debunk any references made to material that they endorsed on their site.

So you're saying that some suicidal thoughts may have been triggered by some pills I took? That's great, I thought I was nuts!

It looks to me like Wikipedia's greatest strenght, is also its biggest vulnerability: It's interactive, andd easy to edit, so although it compiles massive amount of data, a part of it is prone to have a purely manipulative purpose. Nowadays any employee that's fed up with his boss can do a lot of damage to the company's good name, by using tools like wikipedia.

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