Fake medical news threatens our lives

  • While misinformation has been the object of great attention in politics, medical misinformation might have an even greater body count.
  • False medical information can also lead to patients’ experiencing greater side effects through the “nocebo effect.”
  • Cancer is another big target for pushers of medical misinformation — many of whom are making money off alternative therapies.
  • Fake news represents a huge opportunity for pharma to lead the conversation.

This morning’s New York Times finally addresses the threat of fake online health information.  As more and more people go online fake online health information represents a threat to patients that could lead to catasrophy.

As an example cited by the paper “a 2017 study found that when cancer patients turn to alternative therapies like diets, herbs and supplements in place of conventional therapies, they are 2.5 times more likely to die. By exploiting people’s fears, those who dissuade patients from getting evidence-based treatment have blood on their hands”.

Most of us understand the difference between fake medical news and real, helpful online health information, but what about the tens of thousands of people who go online everyday to get health information that they often use to make treatment decisions?  

Pharma can help cut through the fake news, but several things need to happen..

1ne: Pharma websites need to become a “go to” source for updated, clear, and concise health information and less of a site that communicates “ask your doctor about me”.

2wo: One of the best resources that any pharma company should use is their vast thought leader network.  It has been my experience that thought leaders are happy to write content on health conditions to help online health seekers.

3hree: Pharma websites need a content strategy that updates content when there is  a high level of buzz around the new development. 

4our: Updated content should be available to online health seekers via a variety of formats including RSS feeds and eMail (no, RSS feeds are not dead).

Finally a startup that certifies online health information and brands their certification needs to gain momentum.  Content could be reviewed and approved by medical professionals so that online health seekers feel confident that the information they are reading is accurate.  In the meantime pharma needs to fill the void of bad online health information.

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