STAT News reports:
For years, so-called influencers — celebrities, former reality television contestants and sometimes, former lawyers or other professionals — have hawked diet teas and hair products everywhere from Facebook to Snapchat. And now, pharma is catching on.
An entire industry has cropped up to link drug makers with the industry’s own version of an influencer — people, usually patients, who have small but devoted followings and who might be willing to promote their products or share valuable insights about the patient community.
It’s a lucrative new frontier for drug advertising — and for patients, too, who benefit from close contact with the drug maker and, often, a fee. But it is also an increasingly regulated frontier, and one with ethical quandaries that some experts say the drug industry hasn’t fully considered.
They sign up with talent agencies, and then pharmaceutical companies come to those agencies looking for a patient willing to promote a particular drug. 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.