Science Intelligence and InfoPros

Big Pharma: Social Media and camouflaged marketing


An excellent study about how pharma companies use of the internet through direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements on the internet and internet based “social media”. To identify examples of fraudulent DTC marketing they used 4 major sources of information: scientific literature, gray literature, PubMed and the FDA website.

Some findings:

Conclusion: ” Web 2.0 DTC is merely a subset of pharmaceutical marketing; however, as we have shown, it is more likely to be camouflaged, permits companies to directly gather data on patients, and changes rapidly. Internet DTC is difficult to monitor. (…) The majority of the public does not understand the possible side effects and ultimate purpose of DTC advertising; many believe that the mere presence of DTC advertising indicates that a drug is “perfectly safe.”

FDA has repeatedly cited pharmaceutical companies for illegal Web 2.0 marketing. Pharmaceutical companies have repeatedly called on the FDA to regulate web based marketing but the FDA has refused to issue any regulations. Thus Web 2.0 marketing remains an unregulated threat to public health and the general economy that must be addressed“.

Egilman, David & Druar, Nicholas M. 2012. Spin your science into gold: direct to consumer marketing within social media platforms. Work, Vol. 41, pp. 4494-4502. DOI: 10.3233/WOR-2012-0751-4494