To gauge the level of health misinformation, all one has to do is go to LinkedIn. Numerous stories about “potential” new treatments lack context about their development. Now comes word that there may be gastric side effects from using the latest weight loss drugs. The media is using headlines to attract attention, but they aren’t doing their job to investigate an inform.
The headline said it all. “Weight-loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy may put certain people at risk of serious complications, researchers warn.” It says, “Long-term use of popular weight-loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy could put some patients at an elevated risk for a potentially fatal gastrointestinal condition that requires surgery, researchers out of China contend in a newly published journal article.”
First, “was this data peer-reviewed?” and second, what do the FDA and the drug companies have to say about this article? Does the FDA, for example, have any data to correlate these findings?
How many people will ask these questions and start a rumor chain about these drugs? Do patients understand that all studies like these need to be peer reviewed?
According to Medscape, “the amount of medical knowledge is said to double every 73 days, making it much more challenging for physicians to identify innovative findings and newer guidelines for helping patients. Yet not keeping up with the latest information can put doctors at risk”
This presents an opportunity for pharma companies. They need to be the helping hand that guides HCPs through news headlines that lack context. However, they need to do it with data, not “sales points, ” and be completely transparent.
People are going to doctor’s offices asking for these drugs, and HCPs need answers to communicate risk information. This is especially true when the media has positioned these drugs as “an end to the obesity epidemic.”
What should DTC marketers do?
1ne: Quantify the information – How many people are talking about this information on social media and with their doctors?
2wo: Respond with empathy, not sales talk – Your objective is to let people know you’re aware of the information, but you may not be ready to talk about it in-depth until you’ve had a chance to study it.
3hree: Work with PR to address the headlines if it interferes with the product’s benefits. However, it would be best if you were wary because some people will overreact.
All DTC brand teams should have their agencies and internal people monitor threats to the brand. Once a threat is identified, it needs to be quantified because not every headline warrants a response. However, doing nothing is not an option.