Studies have shown that 60% of Americans turn to the internet for medical advice. It’s obvious how social media naturally seems like another method pharmaceutical companies can quickly and easily advertise to consumers. Are pharmaceutical companies alone in trying to tap into our unconscious? Would you be surprised if I told you that you could be inadvertently perpetuating such behavior?
The U.S. is one of the few countries that permits direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals. We’ve all see the ads that ramble on about all the potential risks and side effects associated with various medications. No doubt you’ve probably been bombarded with flashy sidebars on the internet promoting one medication or another — some creepily relevant to our own medical conditions. As social media became a part of life for many of us, pharmaceutical companies were quick to exploit the medium. Platforms like Twitter are free to operate and far-reaching. Only until recently has there been a greater effort to regulate the content being disseminated to the public.
In this day and age, Big Pharma might not be quite as cavalier as you might expect. A quick search on Twitter says it all. Almost every major drug company has a verified Twitter account. While companies are generous in providing general medical knowledge or the update here or there that says the company is actively researching condition X, seldom do you find anything plugging a specific product.
Direct-to-consumer advertising on social media has revealed many challenges. Sometimes 140 characters simply isn’t enough to convey all the benefits let alone the black box warnings a drug may possess. The “Twitterverse” is an international community, and messages applicable to one population could wrongfully passed on to another. Some medications banned by one country may be promoted by individuals and corporations of another country. In fact, Glaxo Smith-Kline and AstraZeneca reportedly have disclaimers on their Facebook sites saying that information is “intended for US residents/consumers only.”
But how often are pharmaceutical companies really harping on their own products on Twitter? More likely than not, individuals are weighing in with their micro-reviews on Twitter. Some would argue that these posts could impact consumers. Bad experiences often motivate people to say something. What about the positive reviews? Who is really behind the tweets gushing about Medication XYZ?
So far, individuals aren’t being held accountable for claims they make. Should the FDA as individuals to report their disclosures? Should the FDA be verifying all social media posts that mention a drug? Something tells me there no room in the FDA budget for this. Others would go as far as to argue that this violates the first amendment.
In June 2014, the FDA released suggested guidelines to regulate social media posts by drug companies. Essentially for every post claiming benefit of a certain medication, the FDA is demanding equal reporting of risks and a link to more information to go with it. Sounds impossible to squeeze all that into 140 characters, and perhaps it these guidelines were meant to deter drug companies from using social media altogether to promote their products.
Let’s take a step back to ask ourselves a few questions:
Do you think the FDA is being fair to drug companies, or should we be hearing about the risks/benefits of toilet paper or have the nutrition facts be mandated for a tweet promoting candy bars? Do you think such regulations are resulting in adverse effects by deterring some individuals from learning about some medications? As mentioned earlier, should individuals be subjected to the same rules? Should all our tweets be regulated as potential advertisement for whichever product is mentioned?
To read the other posts in Austin Chiang’s Healthcare & Social Media series, click here.
Le baromètre cancer 2014 de « Institut Curie-Viavoice » s’est arrêté sur l’utilisation très controversée d’internet. Il faut dire que l’accès d’un simple clic à l’immense source d’informations qu’est internet n’a pas manqué d’impacter l’univers de la santé et, par ricochet, les relations avec les professionnels de santé. Si les Français reconnaissent une fonction pédagogique à l’utilisation […]
Lampe, montre, stylo et autres objets connectés. Le « tout relié aux smartphones » n’a pas fini de surprendre. Stephen Hawking, scientifique émérite, prépare avec la firme Intel un fauteuil roulant connecté, assez révolutionnaire.
Recent data from the CDC has indicated that 50% of Americans are taking one prescription drug, and 10% are on 4 or more prescribed medications as well. Taking into consideration the aging population and the movement towards primary prevention with medications, it is likely a larger shift will occur in the next decade.
Coupled with this is the increasingly large role of social media in the daily lives of the social schema of many Americans — and we may have a new form of Drug Surveillance. It comes as no surprise that many patients report their daily status of health online, and include their experiences with their medications as well. But recent data has come out from researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital that Twitter alone could be a treasure trove of data.
Traditionally, adverse drug effects could be reported to the FDA through their Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS). From this, monitoring post clinical trials can be conducted for any issues that may arise. Many medications have been adjusted or withdrawn from the market based on unseen side effects on patients.
But Friefield and colleague’s recent study in Drug Safety demonstrated that patients are increasingly reporting their side effects via Twitter. Utilizing a semi-automated process to identify 23 drug products on Twitter, approximately 7 million tweets were assessed, with 60,000 evaluated, producing 4,400 identified. Many of the events related to side effects from drugs and how they were responding to therapy.
Another recent study by White and colleague’s in JAMIA also highlighted the use of social media in drug safety analysis. The researchers have highlighted the growing use of social media as a low-cost monitoring tool for federal agencies and drug manufacturers to utilize.
While these studies are sure to spark great interest in the use of social media as a new method to collect post-market safety data, there may be some shortcomings to consider.
Influencia - Les géants du net s’impliquent durablement dans la protection des données personnelles des internautes aux USA, selon le dernier rapport de l’Electronic Frontier Foundation. Toutefois, si Apple et Yahoo sont bien notés, ce n’est pas encore le cas de Snapchat ou Amazon. On aimerait bien un rapport similaire en France...
LE PLUS. Ce mardi 9 septembre, Apple a présenté ses deux nouveaux iPhone 6 ainsi que la montre connectée Apple Watch. Si parmi les petites révolutions, on retient l'arrivée du paiement sans contact, on ne peut pas passer à côté de Health et du HealthKit, l'application santé et le carnet de santé numérique de la pomme... dont Violaine des Courières se méfie.
e-santé : une question de convergence et de co-création Medtronic lance Medtronic Assistance pour tous les utilisateurs d'implants cardiovasculaires (e-santé : une question de convergence et de co-création:
Quelques jours après la présentation de l’Apple Watch, et de son potentiel de vaisseau amiral de la santé connectée, une question mérite d’être posée : que peuvent apporter, réellement, les données récoltées ?
Le Baromètre cancer 2014 de l'Institut Curie se penche pour la première fois sur l'impact d'Internet dans les rapports entre les médecins et des patients toujours plus informés. Eclairage avec l'oncologue Alain Livartowski.
Apple is trying create 'an iPod experience' in healthcare driven by its wearables, but Apple's wearables need to do things significant enough to persuade health consumers to carry their products around with them.