A SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCER is a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach. This can be positive, or as the Spanish Ministry of Health has discovered, it can be negative.
Recent incidents, noted by Spain’s pharmaceutical association, CGCF, has lead to Spain attempting to crack down on influencers who are “bad for your health.”
Specifically, the Spanish Ministry of Health is working to eliminate videos on social networks such as YouTube and Instagram that promote drugs and treatments that should only be available via prescription.
The alarm was triggered a few months ago when Spain’s pharmaceutical association CGCF noticed that the demand for a specific brand of facial wipes used to treat acne was soaring.
The sudden rise of interest in this product has been caused by several videos posted by social media influencers. The snag being that the product is an antibiotic and requires a medical prescription for it’s use and using it it without a proper medical diagnoses can lead to health issues.
Spanish legislation restricts advertising of such medication as its indiscriminate use can cause health problems. Highlighting that medication should not be considered or promoted on the same grounds as a book or item of clothing. Medication should be prescribed by an appropriate health professional and not by an influencer who one day promotes one product and the following a different.
Guillermo Martín Melgar, a Spanish pharmacist, has observed for some time how influencers shape the buying habits of their followers and was alarmed to note that health recommendations, that should be given by a trained health professional are given out on an almost daily basis by “opinion shapers.”
According to El Pais, the list of recommendations can range from an antiviral drug to treat some forms of herpes, another for acne treatment, guidelines on how to take flu medication so it doesn’t affect one’s sleep patterns, and so forth.
Unfortunately many of the social media starlets promoting health products are unconcerned about any secondary health issues that may rise. According to El Pais, Instagrammer Marta Carriedo bluntly stated: “Who cares if it required a prescription, it worked for me… so I really don’t care.”
Ana López-Casero, of the CGCF, explains that at the heart of the problem is people’s lack of knowledge about medication. That many people view some health products as just another consumer product, “like clothes or records” she said, adding that the intention behind the investigation wasn’t to criminalize these influencers “who’s intentions are surely good” but highlights that the rules for promoting medication are very strict, and “they should also be followed on the new channels.”
The underlying concern in that improper use of antibiotics can create resistance to drugs, a public health problem of great concern to the international community. Overusing antibiotics can diminish their effectiveness against bacteria.