Social media has become the new wild west for questionable prescription drug marketing. According to an investigation by Bloomberg Law, TikTok has emerged as a hotbed for inappropriate and potentially dangerous promotion of medications from self-dubbed influencers without any medical expertise.
Drugs featured prominently include Novo Nordisk’s bestselling GLP-1 drug Ozempic and Pfizer’s migraine medication Nurtec ODT. Promotion of the drugs often omit mentions of possible risks or side effects. Influencers on TikTok have also promoted medications such as Ozempic solely for dramatic weight loss purposes.
One young TikTok user promoting Wegovy demonstrates on the platform how she injects the medication and advises her nearly 20,000 followers on how to get started on the drug
Some influencers on the platform have ties to pharmaceutical companies.
Other TikTok videos promote steroids, unproven supplements, and other medications to teenagers looking for a performance edge.
In addition, influencers on TikTok have been found to promote unregulated and often illicit substances, such as selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs), which are steroid-like substances.
Despite having oversight on prescription drug marketing, the FDA has so far not cracked down on misleading health claims and inappropriate medical advice from TikTokers and other social media users.
Historically, the FDA has overseen prescription drug marketing across television, radio, and print media. The agency established guidelines for social media in 2014.
Dr. Robert M. Califf, FDA Commissioner, has identified health misinformation as a major cause of death in the U.S.