Pharma influencers: Legitimate or crossing the line

IN SUMMARY: Some pharma companies are turning to Instagram influencers to help reach patients but when pharma pays these influencers is it crossing the line or compensating someone for their time?

A psoriasis patient on Instagram gets paid by a pharma company to talk about the prescription drug she is using to keep her psoriasis in check. Is this crossing the line or is it a way to connect patients with other patients via social media?

First, let’s look at some facts. Yes, people feel that pharma is only in it for the money but they also trust pharma to develop life-saving drugs. The other thing to remember is that very few people are going to take another’s word when it comes to healthcare treatments. Most likely they are going to do more research.

Then there is the issue of fair balance. By compensating someone does that make them a “marketing channel” and as thus is fair balance required for compensated influencers?

After reviewing numerous Instagram posts by celebrities, athletes, and other influencers, Federal Trade Commission staff recently sent out more than 90 letters reminding influencers and marketers that influencers should clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media.

Patients like to hear other patients experiences with treatments. The key question then becomes “what effect do influencers have on patient treatment decisions”? It’s an area that requires more research but I feel it varies by health condition and drug. I do feel, however, that influencer marketing COULD BE part of an integrated marketing strategy.

The best kind of social media marketing continues to be unsolicited and uncompensated people who use the channel to share their experiences. Using paid influencers to share sometimes emotional experiences could be crossing a line. It’s not right for every product but maybe ideal for products like Botox.