Several of the world's leading pharmaceutical groups and at least one regulator are in talks about hiring a computer consultancy company that has devised software to “spy” on internet conversations about medicines.
Netrank, a UK-based consultancy, has been discussing its i-reputation service with GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, all existing clients. The service scans web logs (known as blogs), news groups and forums for exchanges of information between patients. The system can seek out, classify and identify thousands of internet messages a day making references to drugs in an attempt to warn companies of potential side effects or gauge positive or negative opinions that could affect their image.
Here is how this product should have been presented:
Pharmaceutical groups are planning to join the conversation in blogosphere. They are looking at software that monitors online sites such as discussion groups and blogs for mentions of their industry or products. Companies hope to use this information for developing communications practices that would be more responsive to public opinion.
So who is handling Netrank’s publicity? Former Stasi officers?