Monday, 3 february 2020 | Redacción CEU
We use social platforms as part of our daily routine. We have conversations with our friends and family members on WhatsApp, find old classmates on Facebook, check what the trending topic is on Twitter or get to know what our idols’ new proposals are on Instagram. We do all this easily, with a simple search on the Internet. These virtual environments are changing the way we communicate, but also the way we see the world. Its scope is such that no social or professional sphere can stand aside from the development of social networking sites. This is one of the reasons why, sometimes, the boundaries are quite easy to cross. A recent example: the case of drugs recommendations made by some influencers.
The breathtaking boom of social networking sites has altered many of the established paradigms in the last years. Specifically, the advertising sector has undergone one of the deepest changes. The world of marketing has been forced to reinvent itself, in order to connect with an audience that spends considerable time on a social and digital environment. One of the new strategies that the sector has found to face this new reality is the hiring of influencers. As a general rule, these virtual celebrities boast a large number of followers with whom they are on friendly terms, and communicate naturally. These influencers serve as an ideal means for brands to launch effective messages, promote their products and, thus, reach their dream audience.
The secret of their power of attraction is mainly due to their proximity and naturalness. However, this feature may be precisely the Achilles heel for some of them. Needless to say, true influencers are not constantly advertising products, since if they do so, they may end up losing the spontaneity that makes them unique and, consequently, their followers. Much of their activity consist of explaining or making visible their lifestyle and serving as reference figure in whatever their field is (makeup, fashion, art, books, etc.). This fact leads them frequently to take a stand on certain topics or give some recommendations. The problem: both might have negative consequences.
A few months ago, the General Council of Pharmaceutical Colleges warned of the possible impact that some of the recommendations made by some influencers could have on the health of their followers. It did so after detecting the growing demand for a specific wipes brand in Spanish pharmacies after being recommended in some influencers’ videos. In this particular case, the drug was an antibiotic that required a medical prescription to buy it. That also means that its advertising was strictly prohibited.
Given this context, together with the appearance of some websites that sell drugs and health products and offer users online treatment advice, the General Council of Official Pharmaceutical Colleges, the General Council of Official Medical Associations and the General Council of Dental Associations decided to issue a statement on November. In it, they explained that doctors, dentists and podiatrists are the only professionals who are authorized to prescribe drugs and health products that require a prescription. They highlighted the fact that pharmacists are the only competent professionals for their informed dispensation, as long as the patients give them their corresponding prescription. In turn, they also claimed that this should be done: by ensuring the compliance with the guidelines established by the specialists who are responsible for the patients in the prescriptions and cooperating in the follow-up of the treatments through the pharmaceutical care procedures.
For its part, the Ministry of Health has contacted YouTube, which was the first platform on which this kind of complaints were received, to request the withdrawal or the prohibition to access the content that can meet this demand. Google, which is the owner of this platform, has expressed its intention to collaborate with the Government by removing the content that breaks the law. It will do so when it receives information about specific links, after examining them and verifying that they effectively infringe the rules. It should also be said that there are people who warn that YouTube is not the only social networking site on which these types of recommendations are made. For example, another platform is Instagram.
Nevertheless, social networking sites do not have to be "harmful" for the health sector. In fact, they may serve as a strategic channel for the professionals who work on it. A figure that is gaining more and more visibility on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram is that of the pharmaceutical influencers. They are influencers that put the spotlight on problems that concern the health world, particularly the pharma field. These platforms may also be very useful when it comes to informing about current health issues such as the effects of self-medication, the importance of prevention in health or the proper use of medicines.
The CEU IAM Business School offers an Executive Development Program in Pharma & Biotech (online and in-person modalities) which is focused on providing its students with the strategic keys to be able to successfully overcome the current challenges in the industry, as well as enabling them to know how to recognize and take advantage of the opportunities that may arise. It is a training course which is completely adapted to the decisive changes that the health sector is experiencing with the development of new technologies and the digital world. Thanks to this program, students know first-hand what the impressions of the leaders in the sector, the members of the administration and remarkable experts are in matters which are essential for the progress of the pharma and biotech business.