Research 2.0: How drug companies are using social networks to recruit patients for clinical research.

Pharmaceutical companies are utilizing social networks at an increasing rate. In Sarah Kliff’s article on Newsweek.com, she covers just one of them–Inspire.com. According to Ms. Kliff, Inspire’s nearly 100,000 users aren’t just sharing with each other (and the 62 nonprofits who partner with the site), they’re also receiving targeted information from pharmaceutical companies who use the site as a recruiting tool for drug studies. Opening this door between patients and drugmakers has some obvious benefits but also raises a host of ethical and medical dilemmas. Kliff goes on to describe this phenomenon as a Pharma Facebook, of sorts. According to Kliff’s research, three of the four pharmaceuticals working with Inspire declined to discuss their interest in social networks, or even reveal their names. The fourth, Merck, declined multiple requests for an interview but did issue a brief statement on their commitment to “rapid and effective enrollment of appropriate patients into trials” as to allow for “timely development of innovative medicines.” As a social media expert, what do you think are the benefits of this outlet for pharmaceutical companies to connect with patients? Do you see any blaring negatives? Let us know your thoughts here or on Twitter.