Deceptive Social Media Advertising of Pharmaceutical Products - Coursework Example

Date:  2021-09-02 21:55:22
7 pages  (1732 words)
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The explosion of social media has dramatically revolutionized the marketing of pharmaceutical products in the recent past. Social media platforms have progressively become popular among pharmaceutical companies that previously relied on mainstream media to promote their drugs. Besides, advertising of drugs has expanded beyond specific drugs to include more products and promotional channels However, these social media platforms account for the increase in deceptive advertising that continues to pose health hazards to populations and organizations. Adverts that threaten consumers health raise serious ethical issues that pharmaceutical organizations cannot afford to downplay in the contemporary drugs market. Social media postings and pharmaceutical commercials are associated with improper use of medication, overutilization, heavy spending on branded drugs, and endangered public health issues that require stringent adherence to ethical codes, ethical practice, and ethics promotional practices.

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Direct-To-Customer Advertising

The conceptualization of deceptive advertising can best be understood through direct-to-customer pharmaceutical social media postings. Direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising (DTCPA) has been growing rapidly over the last few years, especially on social media platforms. The evidence currently available support the argument that DTCPA is progressively becoming the most popular health communication strategy among the public (Tyrawski & DeAndrea, 2015). This argument is premised on the observation that many people prefer seeking medical assistance on social networks compared to public health care facilities.

DTCPA encompasses all the initiatives made by pharmaceutical firms to promote their prescription products directly to patients. Among the social medial tools at the disposal of these companies include help-seeking ads, reminder ads, and product claim ads. Help-seeking ads provide detailed information about the medical condition and advises patients to seek assistance from physicians. In light of reminder ads, it is fair to suggest that they enable patients to know about the prices, strengths, and dosage formula of various drugs that can treat their illnesses. The product claim ads highlight the product, its label, efficiency, and safety claims.

Ethical Consideration with DTCPA

One of the ethical issues with direct-to-customer(DTC) ads is that they misinform patients. There seems to be a reasonable ground to claim that DTC ads misinform consumers because they may omit information that is crucial in assisting patients to understand their medical conditions and the appropriate drug prescriptions. It is worrying to note that less than 30% of DTCPA activities attempt to explain the probable cause of a disease (O'Donoghue et al., 2015). Along a similar line, it could be argued that a vast majority of the ads make people to believe that good health be achieved only through medication and thus, distract people from adopting behavior change strategies. These narrative forces patients to subconsciously use the contents of the DTCPA ads to justify drug safety, and their trust on the ads.

Although mainstream media houses such as television, radio, and newspapers contribute to drugs promotion, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have taken the pharmaceutical advertising sector by a great storm. The consensus view regarding the issue is that the practice of DTCPA is an important yet the most controversial approach to marketing in the pharmaceutical industry. Those who are vehemently opposed to DTCPA claim that it contributes to misinformation, puts more emphasis on the pros of pharmaceutical treatments than on the potential risks, and sets the stage for inappropriate drug prescriptions (O'Donoghue et al.,2015).

The ethical concerns about DTCPA have prompted consumer safety agencies to tighten regulations and law enforcement programs. For instance, the United States established the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agency to oversee marketing activities for consumer products. FDA was established under the Federal Food, Drugs, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. The agency is charged with the responsibilities of regulating the content of DTCPA and proscribing all mendacious and disingenuous pharmaceutical campaigns. As part of their mandate, the agencies ensure that the advertisers present a just balance of the health benefits and possible risks of pharmaceutical products.

The efficiency of social media tools changes with technological advancements. The technological dynamics implies that the effectiveness of social media marketing strategies have evolved to rely more on persuasion and safety than regulation. It is crystal clear in the minds of most Americans that the relaxation of FDA regulations for direct-to-customer advertising is responsible for the resurgence of DTCPA together with its problems which they are enduring today.

Moreover, it is important to point out that regulation may be a daunting task in certain governance structures. For instance, issuing warning letters to companies found in violation of FDA regulations may require legal reviews (Miller & Cassady, 2015). The fact of the matter is that these legal reviews slows down law enforcement and encourage deceptive advertising to the detriment of the public. Besides, it requires a huge number of FDA staff to review help-seeking, reminder, and product claim adds posted on the official webpages of different pharmaceutical companies. What is more, regulatory agencies may experience inadequate funding in their effort to train staff and deploy them for market surveillance and compliance.

Social media promotional activities account for a larger portion of pharmaceutical companies marketing budgetary allocation. On the contrary, public health enthusiasts are weary of the negative health effects of frequent and pervasive social media postings. The underlying argument in favor of this concern is that consumers may provide inaccurate and harmful information about various drugs on social media platforms of the companies. On the basis of this argument, it seems fair to claim that new clients are likely to trust the information provided by consumers who claim to have an experience about a particular illness as well as the appropriate prescriptions. As a result, the target pharmaceutical companies may lose public trust and brand image, thereby putting them on the verge of collapsing in the market.

In contrast, pharmaceutical organizations may engage in unethical marketing behavior with the aim of maximizing profits. Research shows that many pharmaceutical companies perpetrate deceptive advertising by either deleting or changing negative consumer feedback, leaving the ones that portray them as ethical and trustworthy. It is not something to doubt that this alteration of consumer feedback reveals the magnitude of the deceit which consumers are being treated to in the DTCPA strategy. In this respect, the most important policy considerations would be the companies commitment to regulating the contents of postings made on their social media pages. It would also be imperative to assess the testimonies of patients about their experiences with a companys information and the tone therein.

DTCPA also plunges pharmaceutical companies into a strategy dilemma. The primary objective of advertising is to increase sales turnover for pharmaceutical products and ultimately maximize profits. DTCPA presents one of the most fascinating paradoxes of the 21st Century marketing. The marketing code of conduct obliges marketers to include information about the potential risks and negative effects of DTCPA to prospective consumers. The danger of such a disclosure is that it may inculcate and spread needless fears about the adverse side effects of the products being advertised. It is evident from this analysis that companies are torn between praising their products and persuading the public that the products are safe for human consumption. Such a scenario invokes the principle of ethical decision-making and implores marketers of pharmaceutical products to review the contents of their ads.

Communication is another area of concern with the use of DTCPA. Arguably, an advert is as trustworthy as the language used to pass the message. Regulation has failed to take into account whether the language used in the ads is qualifying for the target audience or not. The main argument against the use of a less qualifying language is that it leads to not only information ambiguity but also an oversimplification of the health benefits of the drugs. A qualifying language pertaining health risks may give rise to divergent perspectives about the medical prescription, of which the inevitable consequence is more confusion among consumers of the products.

Unknown safety profiles form yet another ethical concern with social media DTCPA activities. Clinical reports show that new drugs with unidentified safety information continue to prove disastrous following their introduction into the market. On a similar note, such drugs have been the bestsellers because they are heavily marketed in their initial life cycle. The bone of contention is that at the early stage of a product development, including medicinal drugs, the public know very little about their safety profile hence, the health risk concerns. In most cases, heavily advertised drugs face safety advisories, black-box warnings, and ultimate withdrawal from the market. Therefore, pharmaceutical organizations should ensure that the include ads about products that are in their late stages of development and the public have perfect information about their safety.

Furthermore, social media DTCPA ads creates illnesses and promote drug overutilization among users. The critiques of DTCPA posit that it has reduced the world into a highly overmedicated society. Natural conditions and fashion issues have been medicalized to such an extent that people have little faith in both spiritual healing and rehabilitation programs (Liang & Mackey, 2011). One can state without fear of contradiction that it is unethical and irrational to exacerbate dissatisfaction with normal health encounters and heighten expectations of patients about the benefits of particular drugs. In fact, it more prudent for businesses to avoid practices that may cause anguish for those who cannot afford the heavily marketed drugs and the damages to reputation when the drugs cause disappointment among patients.

Other ethical issues with ATCPA are inappropriate prescription and wastage of appointment time. According to O'Donoghue et al. (2015), physicians find it extremely difficult to convince patients that the clinically recommended prescriptions for their conditions are viable due to the false information. The patients acquire misleading information through the pharmaceutical commercials and ads and progressively believe the prescriptions they contain. The greatest nightmare of physicians in public hospitals is changing this wrong mindset. In response, the physicians may accept the wishes of clients and make inappropriate prescriptions.

Patients allocate time out of their busy schedules to honor online appointment with doctors and health psychologists. In contrast, these practitioners may feel that their efforts may not achieve any fruition because the ads make patients adamant. It is true to believe that the physicians are always left with no option but to provide deceptive information just to make the consumers happy. In extreme cases, deceptive advertising destroys the relationship between health care providers and patients. Patients and their families may lose trust in the clinical decision of practitioners and question their co...

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