Health advice has always helped to gain a better understanding of illness, the side effects of medicine, and ways of coping mechanisms. This tradition that has been existing for a long time now has reformed into social media handles like Instagram and TikTok.
Nowadays, 'patient influencers' are all over the arena promising health benefits by endorsing pharmaceutical medicines. However, health experts have raised serious concerns about such initiatives.
Patient influences can make direct connections with a niche audience of patients. Patients tend to trust these influencers who promise positive outcomes using the medicine that they endorse.
Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical Centre points out the distinction between patient interest groups and influencers.
"There have been patient interest groups, for example, for all kinds of illnesses and we physicians often refer our patients to those patient interest groups because they can communicate and share day-to-day experiences that help cope with illnesses on an on-the-ground level and that goes beyond a lot of what doctors are capable of doing, have the time for, or have the personal experience of," Schaffner told Healthline.
The influencers must mention that they are paid while endorsing the company. Failing to do so, is a serious manipulation of the interest of the patients.
Commercials, too, clearly state their partnership with pharmaceutical companies. But they bring personal experience, which influences people more than authentic data submitted by medical departments.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had published a document "Disclosure 101 for social media influencers" stating certain guidelines for brand endorsements.
In this, along with the patient influencer providing details of the paid partnership must also give honest reviews of the product.
Schaffner also adds that it is important for the public to know whether the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is aware of the influencers that they follow.