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JMIR Article by IHLS Authors Discusses Global Public Health Implications of Social Media Direct-to-Consumer Advertising by Illicit Online Pharmacies and Private Entities

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- In a article published in the August issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), Dr. Bryan A. Liang, Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Health Law & Executive Director, Institute of Health Law Studies (IHLS), California Western School of Law (CWSL); and Mr. Tim Mackey, Senior Research Associate at IHLS and PhD Student in the Global Health Program at University of California, San Diego – San Diego State University, assess the global public health and patient safety implications of unregulated social media Direct-to-Consumer Advertising using web 2.0 (eDTCA 2.0) by online pharmacies and pharmaceutical corporations.


eDTCA 2.0 pharmaceutical marketing has emerged with the rapid utilization of social media by healthcare consumers.  Popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs are now advertising healthcare products directly to consumers.  In their study, Dr. Liang and Mr. Mackey report that the use of eDTCA 2.0 by pharmaceutical corporations is widespread and common with all of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies having a presence on Facebook, Twitter/Friendster, sponsored blogs and RSS feeds.

In the first documented work of this phenomena, Liang and Mackey's findings also report that illicit online pharmacies selling dangerous drugs over the Internet without a prescription are also utilizing eDTCA 2.0, raising serious health risks for patients. Alarmingly, of the Top 10 grossing drugs in 2009, 90% (9/10) are marketed via eDTCA 2.0 by these illicit actors. Further, 16/20 of the world's top marketed drugs are also sold through these illegal actors in social media forums. Facebook alone had 60% of the top 10 grossing drugs and 50% of the world's 20 most marketed drugs being advertised illicitly.

In order to address this global health and patient safety issue, Liang and Mackey call for greater surveillance, transparency and regulation of illegal eDTCA 2.0 export by the government, marketers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and various Internet service providers.

The research article is entitled, "Prevalence and Global Health Implications of Social Media in Direct-to-Consumer Advertising" and is available online free of charge as an open access piece at  JMIR is the world's top ranked journal for health informatics and second in health sciences & health services research categories.

About the Institute of Health Law Studies

The Institute of Health Law Studies is a Center of Excellence of the California Western School of Law, and is dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of complex health policy issues.  IHLS engages in research, advocacy, community service, and education, to fulfill its mission of "Improving health care today … for all our tomorrows."

Further information can be obtained by contacting media contact Pam Tait at or at (619) 515-1569.  For more information visit the IHLS Web site at  

SOURCE Institute of Health Law Studies
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