Social Media is dangerous for patients

Suppose you’re on Facebook or Instagram, and Meta has determined you may be interested in cancer treatments. In that case, you may have seen an ad for a dangerous cancer treatment, or one of the 20 or so others recently running from the CHIPSA hospital in Mexico near the US border, all of which are publicly listed in Meta’s Ad Library. They are part of a pattern on Facebook of ads that make misleading or false health claims targeted at cancer patients.

Clinics offering debunked cancer treatments are still advertising on Facebook despite the company’s efforts to control medical misinformation. There are also ads for phony treatments, and posts on health condition pages also contain a lot of false information. Recently there was a vibrant discussion about using supplements to control blood sugar in a diabetes group. It got so long that an MD finally chimed in and called the posts garbage at one point, which could lead to visits to the ER or even death.

Pharma, for the most part, has been dabbling in social media. Every time in a while, I see a post on my Twitter feed for Opdivo or drugs to treat depression. Why ANY pharma marketer would think someone would click on the ad is beyond me. Still, perhaps they would get a better ROI if they posted content that people cared about, like “how to eat on vacation when you have diabetes” or “there are more symptoms of depression than sitting in a room alone.”

So what’s stopping pharma from experimenting? Their extremely conservative medical, legal and regulatory teams are trying to avoid ALL risks.

I have overcome this by working closely with M L R teams and bringing them in the loop with the rationale and examples of what we plan to do. Springing it on them during an M L R meeting is NOT the way to get it done.

Of course, the biggest issue question is should pharma even be on social media given the amount of fraud and false information? That needs to be decided by the eMarketing people. They need to ask if their audience is actually on social media vs. the cost and measurement criteria.

Social media is in the crosshairs as more information comes to light about false information within their platforms. However, since the pandemic, Google metrics have shown that the search for online health information remains strong.