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Pharma turns to social media influencers

Maximilian Muench makes his living from travel photos. The same model is increasingly applying to prescription drugs. Photo: Paul Zinken/Picture alliance via Getty Images

Social-media influencers aren’t just promoting clothes and fancy hotels any more — they’re now helping to sell prescription drugs.

Details: Most of these influencers are patients, according to STAT. They sign up with talent agencies, and then pharmaceutical companies come to those agencies looking for a patient willing to promote a particular drug.

  • “What has become obvious now is that micro-influencers, folks with smaller communities can have a dramatic impact on people’s behavior,” Jack Barrette, founder and CEO of Wego Health, a patient talent agency, told STAT.
  • Facebook is the top platform for this kind of engagement, followed by Instagram and Twitter, he said.

There are no restrictions on who can promote a drug, and if a campaign discusses a condition rather than a specific product, drug companies don’t have to disclose their involvement.

  • “There’s a myriad of ethical issues around this,” Tufts medical professor Lisa Gualtieri said.