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Sanofi eyes diabetics with social media

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Sanofi wants to know its target audience of consumers with diabetes, and the French drug giant has found that social media in their multiple incarnations serve as useful windows into the lives of people with the disease. At stake is one of the fastest-growing markets in the pharma game, one of vital strategic importance to Sanofi ($SNY).

Diabetes drug or product sales grew 12% to €4.7 billion ($5.8 billion) for Sanofi in 2011, led by rapid growth of the blockbuster insulin med Lantus. As PMLive's Digital Intelligence Blog notes, Sanofi has sought further expansion in the market with a safety study for Lantus released in June and efforts to gain approval of a GLP-1 drug called Lyxumia in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Yet there are now several GLP-1 meds already on the market from Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) Amylin and others. Meantime, Lantus faces a lineup of rivals from Novo Nordisk ($NVO) and Eli Lilly ($LLY).

Social media platforms such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter offer Sanofi tools to learn perspectives from patients that employees of the pharma giant would not see otherwise, Dennis Urbaniak, head of Sanofi's U.S. diabetes business, told the blog. And he's been an advocate for using social media as a way to crowdsource for good ideas as well. Last month, his group awarded a $100,000 prize for its second annual Data Design Diabetes contest, which was promoted online and drew many ideas for how to transform large datasets into useful applications for patients.

"Our main benefit has been just how much we have learned by engaging directly with the diabetes community. The social nature of these platforms has allowed us to meet a lot of new people, listen to what they have to say, and start a conversation with them on living with diabetes, which has brought so much valuable perspective for our entire team," Urbaniak told PMLive. He later added: "We should never look at these channels as advertising or promotion channels and should only provide this information when it is requested and in a format that satisfies our regulatory obligations."

The social web has become a popular destination for drug giants, especially those involved in selling products for patients with diabetes, which afflicts about 350 million people worldwide. Bayer, for instance, recently began a blog for diabetics. Roche ($RHHBY) has supported a new Twitter landing page for aggregating insights from a roster of writers on the topic as well.  

- check out PMLive's interview with Urbaniak

Related Articles:
Bayer boosts diabetes message with new blog
Pharma feeds multiply on Twitter
Roche helps corral diabetes chitchat from Twitter

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