Medical Warnings: BEWARE! Many Online “Patient Influencers” Are being Paid By Pharmaceutical Companies To Mislead Viewers On Prescription Drugs!
: A new study led by researchers from University of Colorado-USA has found that many online “Patient Influencers” are being paid by pharmaceutical companies to mislead viewers on prescription drugs!
In some cases, these online medical influencers are not just previous patients but also doctors, researchers and so called “experts’ and even advocacy or medical groups that appear frequently on Youtube or Tik-Tok videos or even on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or have their own blogs.
The study also involved researchers University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill-USA.
For a long time now, many pharmaceutical companies have struggled with trust and brand reputation among key stakeholders and have adopted innovative marketing strategies to reach patients directly and rebuild those relationships.
Sadly, social media influencers are a popular strategy to influence the more intellectually deficient and ‘brain dead’ younger demographics, including Generation Z and millennials!
It is common for social media influencers to work in paid partnerships with brands in this new multibillion-dollar industry. Long have patients been active in online health communities and social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, but in recent years, pharmaceutical marketers have noticed the power of patient persuasion and begun to leverage “patient influencers” in brand campaigns.
The study team aimed to explore how patient influencers communicate health literacy on pharmaceutical medications on social media to their communities of followers.
A total of 26 in-depth interviews were conducted with patient influencers using a snowball sampling technique. This study is part of a larger project using an interview guide that included a range of topics such as social media practices, logistics of being an influencer, considerations for brand partnerships, and views on the ethical nature of patient influencers. The constructs of the Health Belief Model were used in this study’s data analysis: perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, perceived benefits, perceived barriers, cues to action, and self-efficacy. This study was approved by the institutional review board of the University of Colorado and adhered to ethical standards in interview practice.
As patient influencers are a new phenomenon, it was the study team’s goal to identify how health literacy on prescription medications and pharmaceuticals is being communicated on social media.
Utilizing the constructs of the Health Belief Model to guide the analysis, 3 themes were identified: understanding disease through experience, staying informed on the science or field, and suggesting that physicians know best.
Patients are actively exchanging health information on social media channels and connecting with other patients who share similar diagnoses.
Patient influencers share their knowledge and experience in efforts to help other patients learn about disease self-management and improve their quality of life. Similar to traditional direct-to-consumer advertising, the phenomenon of patient influencers raises ethical questions that need more investigation.
In a way, patient influencers
are health education agents who may also share prescription medication or pharmaceutical information. They can break down complex health information based on expertise and experience and mitigate the loneliness and isolation that other patients may feel without the support of a community.
But sadly, the power of money is driving many of these medical influencers to disseminate misleading information to help boost the sales of certain drugs as per the directives of the pharmaceutical companies.
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed Journal of Medical Internet Research and provides some of the first insights into the burgeoning, loosely regulated world of so-called "patient influencers," sharing findings from 26 in-depth interviews about why and how they do it.
Study author Erin Willis, an associate professor of advertising, public relations and media design commented, "The bottom line here is that patient influencers act as a form of interactive direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, sharing their knowledge and experiences on pharmaceutical drugs with communities of followers in which they wield great influence. This raises ethical questions that need more investigation."
The new research comes amid growing concerns about the harmful consequences of drug promotion on social media.
It was reported in recent weeks, there has been a slew of Tik-Tok videos and Twitter posts touting the weight loss benefits of the diabetes drug Ozempic causing actual patients who need the medication to manage their disease to face global shortages as a result of stupid fat and lazy people trying to lose weight buying and taking the drug as promoted by these stupid Tik-Tok videos!
The good news was that those stupids taking it "off-label" to slim down have experienced surprising side-effects, including violent diarrhea and extreme facial thinning.
No Medical Warnings
were disclosed by the medical influencers about the possible side effects from Ozempic usage.
Willis commented, "This is a great example of the power of social media and the unintended consequences.”
Being controversial from its start in the 1980s, and still only available in the United States and New Zealand, DTC advertising enables drug companies to target consumers directly, rather than exclusively through physicians. About half of the individuals who ask their doctor about a drug after seeing a TV ad get it.
With trust in pharmaceutical companies and traditional media declining, drug makers are now turning to real patients as messengers, with companies like Health Union connecting them for partnerships.
The study team conducted one-on-one, hour-long Zoom interviews with influencers with a range of conditions, including lupus, fibromyalgia, Parkinson's disease, asthma, HIV, celiac disease, chronic migraines and perimenopause. Eighteen of the 26 collaborated with a pharmaceutical company in some way.
Most of these interviewed had between 1,000 and 40,000 followers. Such "micro influencers" tend to be less expensive for advertisers to work with than celebrities, and research has shown they have the most influence on purchasing behaviors.
Some of these medical influencers posted company press releases directly. Others read studies about drugs and translated results for followers. Some were paid to post content for drug companies.
Willis, noting that consumers often fail to recognize the difference between a sponsored ad and an altruistic personal post added, "Health literacy and digital literacy are both concerningly low in this country. The fact that patients with no medical training are broadly sharing drug information should alarm us."
Most of these medical influencers claimed they were drawn to their roles by a sense that the answers they sought as patients, didn't exist in other channels.
One study participant claimed, "I spent a lot of time looking for diabetes information that related to me, as an African American woman from the South. I didn't see what I needed, so I created it." (It was not disclosed as to whether she had any ancestry linkage with Nigeria, a country and its people famous for online scams!)
Some said they would only post about drugs they personally had been prescribed and taken and always encouraged followers to consult with their doctor. They all said they generally strived to behave ethically.
Many influencers reported that followers frequently private message them to get detailed information about dosage and side effects.
Willis said, "In an online community, there are other people there to say, 'That's not true or that's not what I experienced. But with social media, a lot of the conversation happens privately."
She also worries that influencers may stress the upsides of medications without fully disclosing the side-effects. For instance, she references a famously controversial 2015 post by celebrity influencer Kim Kardashian, singing the praises of a "#morningsickness" drug called Diclegis to her tens of millions of followers on Instagram.
Fortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration swiftly flagged the post for omitting the drug's long list of risks, required Kardashian to remove the post and dinged the drug maker with a warning letter.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now requires influencers to disclose whether they are paid via hashtags, such as #ad or #sponcon, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has rules on what can be said on social posts. But those rules are open to interpretation, and videos, disappearing content and direct messaging can be tough to track.
Willis acknowledged that her sample was a small one and that because many of her interviewees were referred to her by Health Union, they likely skew to the responsible side.
She intends to include broader sample sizes in future studies and explore how influencers impact treatment decisions and investigate compensation for and regulations around patient influencers.
Market analysts predict the influencer marketing industry as a whole will be valued at $21.1 billion in 2023.
As patient influencers increasingly find their place in it, Willis contends that regulators should work harder to keep up with all the new platforms.
She said, "This is happening, with or without regulation, and people should be aware of it.”
Thailand Medical News
strongly advocates that people use their brains and what intelligence they have not only in terms of making decisions with regards to medical products or services but generally for anything else and to simply ignore all these online influencers keeping in mind that it is they who are making money while you are not! Also avoid stupid garbage platforms like Tik-Tok that is China owned and also videos on Youtube unless they are music or movie orientated.Most of the marketing, brand and product managers who resort to social media influencers are basically brain dead idiots themselves who lack any other creative strategies to boost their brand image or improve tactical sales and companies should avoid hiring such garbage!
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