Pfizer has inked an agreement with Sermo Inc., a social-networking website for licensed physicians, that will allow Pfizer-affiliated doctors to talk online with the 31,000 members of the site. Financial terms were not disclosed. Serno, which does not charge a sign-up fee, adds 2,000 doctors a week. The arrangement will give Pfizer information on how doctors prescribe drugs and an opportunity to present data without having to visit doctors in person. Pfizer will have to be careful, because drug companies are monitored to be sure they are not offering financial incentives or pushing their drugs for unapproved uses. Doctors, too, are hesitant to appear unduly close to any individual company. "Often it's looked badly upon by other physicians when you are perceived to have a close relationship with a drug company," says Sermo member Richard Thrasher. Pfizer physicians will be able to ask questions of other doctors on the site and respond to posts. "It takes a lot of courage for Pfizer to do this, because the response isn't going to be universally positive," said Sermo CEO Dr. Daniel Palestrant. Dr Michael Berelowitz, Pfizer's global medical executive, said: "The way the Internet and other web-based media have transformed life is unprecedented. But it offers such advantages that we'd like to be part of that evolution." Pfizer laid off 20% of its U.S. sales force in 2006 and over 20% of its European sales force in January.
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Earnings call transcript: Pfizer Q2 2007