Physicians Tweeting About Drugs May Pose Financial Conflict of Interest

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Financial conflict of interest must be considered with the growing use of social media.
Financial conflict of interest must be considered with the growing use of social media.

HealthDay News — Most physicians on Twitter with a financial conflict of interest (FCOI) and frequent tweets mention specific drugs for which they have a conflict, according to a study published in The Lancet Haematology.1

Victoria Kaestner, from the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, and colleagues examined whether conflicted physicians tweet about specific products for which they have a FCOI. A total of 156 physicians who tweeted a median of 584 times were included, with a 2014 median general payment totaling $13,600.

The researchers found that 81% of the physicians mentioned at least 1 drug from a company for which they had a FCOI and 88% mentioned at least 1 drug for which they did not have an FCOI.

Fifty-two percent of the 4358 total drug mentions regarded conflicted drugs. Only 1.3% of the physicians included a disclosure relating to their payment; these were in their Twitter biography. Conflicted tweets were more likely to be positive, similarly likely to be neutral, and less likely to be negative, compared with tweets about non-conflicted drugs coded at random.

"Our results raise the concern that financial conflict of interest must be considered with the growing use of social media to discuss cancer products and practices, as well as policies regarding disclosure, divesture, audit, and recusal may be considered," the authors write.

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Reference

  1. Kaestner V, Brown A, Tao D, Prasad V. Conflicts of interest in Twitter. Lancet Haematol. 2017; 4(9):e408-e409. 
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