Jul 9, 2010

Google Comments Regarding NIH #1 Organic Rank for Branded Drug Names in Search Engine

Thank you to everyone the commented on the previous blog post I did regarding Google force-ranking NIH drug product information in the #1 position for organic searches. I received several good, thought-provoking comments in the blog itself, as well as many more direct emails and DMs to my twitter handle.

One interesting question posed was “How do you know what’s really going on?”. Fair enough. 

Rather than assume anything, we went right to the horse’s mouth, called up Google and asked them a few questions.  I’d like to pass along the answers to those questions to the readers.

Not an ‘official’ interview…the conversation went something like this:

Roska: Is there an explicit or official partnership between Google and the NIH [or is Google merely pulling NIH content]?

Google:  Google has partnered with the NIH to license their information to serve it through Google. The goal is to provide NIH results for all drugs searches [brand and generic], so there is a consistent, credible source of health information.

Roska: Why do some drug searches not currently yield an NIH search result? 

Google: The NIH may not have all information yet but Google does intend to roll this out for all drug searches occurring in the US (no exceptions). No specific timeline has yet been released. If a product is not listed, you can submit it to your Google rep and they will hand it over to the proper contact.  Additionally, if there is incorrect information for a product, you can work with your rep to update it.

Roska: Are there any future updates planned you can tell us about?

Google: There is a new subset of YouTube policies around pharma manufacturers.

So…back to some of the original questions. 

  • Is there a deal between Google and the NIH?  Yes. 
  • Do we know the real motivations behind the deal? No.
  • Is all of the drub information current and accurate? No.
  • Are all of the drug products listed? No.
  • Will pharma pay the price by having to spend more on paid search? Absolutely.


  1. Kurt- thanks for the proactive follow up with Google from your last post on this topic.

    So just so I'm clear, I have 2 areas of further clarification:

    1: Relationship/influencing parameters

    Google and NIH have the deal. Pharma has no influence/direct involvement with the NIH at all.

    Rather, pharma can/should leverage this opportunity directly through their relationships with Google-- so Google is the common contractual thread here, likely to remove areas of conflict (ie: NIH being government regulated/ housing unbiased information).

    2) Logistics

    If a pharma manufacturer wants the NIH to have the most relevant clinical info on their product- the pharma brand should send that info to their Google contact (likely a contact/relationship within paid search managed through a 3rd party SEO/ad agency/vendor) and NOT send the info directly to the NIH?

    ...and Google will work with NIH to update their database of drug info accordingly, correct?

    3) YouTube

    Did Google mention when these new pharma guidelines surround You Tube would be released to the public?


    2) do you know if they plan to disseminate this new info at their discretion, via their pharma brand contacts?

    thanks again for taking the lead on providing follow-up & clarification.

  2. Thanks for the comments Jess. Responses to question for clarification 1&2 below.

    1. Relationship/influencing parameters.

    I believe your understanding is correct. This is a partnership between Google and the NIH. To the best of my knowledge, pharma is not involved (as evidence by quite a few upset brand managers that have contacted me).

    Removing areas of conflict is a big gray area. If pharma reaches out to Google there is then a connection between Google and the pharma company (i.e. pharma is in fact potentially supplying information (entered into the relationship) and/or influencing Google). As long as the information is accurate, on-label, etc. I would think there would be no issue with the FDA. However, if it is not accurate, off-label, etc. and Google works with the NIH and the information gets posted...who is responsible?

    2. Logistics

    That is what Google is telling us. We may try a pilot on this to see how well it works. But based on the interview, they appear to be the contact for getting information updated and not the NIH

    3. YouTube Rules

    We have asked Google to send us the new rules. I'll post them as soon as I have them.

    Thanks for the questions. I'll post more as the dialogue continues.



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