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October 2022   Volume 17 Issue 1
Journal of Health and Life Sciences Law

Big Pharma, Social Media, and the Regulatory Agency Game of Catch-up

  • October 13, 2022
  • Joan Lebow , Edwards Maxson Mago & Macaulay, LLP
  • Anu Dairkee, MD , Loyola University Chicago School of Law

ABSTRACT: This article will address the impact of social media on patients’ medical decision making in the context of pharmaceutical promotion regulation. Legal issues in the field range from ensuring that laws that are being created or “tweaked” do not impinge on First Amendment freedom of speech protections, to concerns about protecting vulnerable consumers who may fall prey to an “expert’s” encouragement to use a certain product to treat an illness. If that expert has a financial interest in or a relationship with a pharmaceutical company that uses him/her in their social media to increase sales of a particular product, the legal issues that arise are interesting and worth examination. This Comment will review the role of “influencers” in the sale of pharmaceuticals, who typically are experts on the product they are promoting, versus celebrity endorsers, who are not experts. Pharmaceutical companies will often retain such influencers because they believe the influencer’s celebrity status can affect the way people perceive certain products. The focus of this article is specifically on physician influencers, the implications their endorsements can have, their role on the mass market version of a physician-patient relationship—which is present in many social media platforms—and the regulation of such endorsements. 

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