Misleading Ads Fueled Rapid Growth of Online Mental Health Companies

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From The Wall Street Journal: “In an advertisement on Facebook and Instagram, a middle-aged man holding a dumbbell says testosterone ‘literally changed my life,’ restoring his energy and happiness.

What the October ad from telehealth startup Hone Health doesn’t say is that the unidentified man is an actor who has never used the prescription drug. It doesn’t mention that testosterone is approved by the Food and Drug Administration only for men with specific disorders and that among its risks are heart attacks and stroke.

Similar telehealth companies are flooding TikTok, Instagram and other platforms with ads that don’t conform to longtime standards governing the marketing of prescription drugs and healthcare treatments. They feature actors posing as customers, tout benefits of drugs with no mention of side effects and promote medications for uses not approved by the FDA.

Since the pandemic, online advertising has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to telehealth companies such as Cerebral Inc. and Done Global Inc. for treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and other ‘medical’ conditions. Some employees and patients have said their marketing practices contributed to the abuse of controlled substances.

In a four-week period spanning October and November, about 20 companies ran more than 2,100 ads on Facebook and Instagram that described benefits of prescription drugs without citing risks, promoted drugs for unapproved uses or featured testimonials without disclosing whether they came from actors or company employees, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of ads collected by the nonprofit Algorithmic Transparency Institute from Meta Platforms Inc.’s ad library.

Those drugs included controlled substances, such as ketamine and testosterone, which are tightly regulated by the federal government due to their potential for abuse, and medications that normally carry boxed warnings, among the most serious types of safety warnings mandated by the FDA.

In the two years since the government expanded the scope of medical services allowed via video calls, telehealth companies have been operating largely outside advertising rules that govern drugmakers, a gray area subject to little government oversight or guidance. Instead, the main gatekeepers exercising the power to review or remove telehealth advertising are the social-media giants paid to run the ads.”

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2 COMMENTS

  1. As most psych survivors know, big Pharma has been false advertising for decades. I know I was taught, when getting my marketing degree, that false advertising is illegal.

    I’m pretty certain we’re all now witnessing big Pharma’s gas lighting of the entire world, possibly since they’ve lost the scientific debate on the psych drugs, and psychiatry’s and psychology’s “invalid” disorders.

    https://psychrights.org/2013/130429NIMHTransformingDiagnosis.htm

    Be afraid of Covid now! Since the powers that shouldn’t be, no longer have psychiatry’s two “most serious mental illnesses” to defame people with.

    https://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Epidemic-Bullets-Psychiatric-Astonishing-ebook/dp/B0036S4EGE
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxidrome
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroleptic-induced_deficit_syndrome

    When do we start arresting the criminal liars, attempted murderers, thieves, pedophiles, and other powers that shouldn’t be?

  2. I guess they just don’t have enough money yet to hire Hollywood superstars to make movies yet about a new pill called “Tinkerbell”…. Although there has been a much publicized trial about someone who acted out (years ago in a “movie”) popping something that brought him back to “reality” enough that presently in his “real” life he seems (reportedly with court evidence) to have popped enough on all sides of the bargain that his “Christ” complex has taken such a hold that such “magic” and his “image” clouds over the very thought that all of that could have made him quite violent, to not remember it, and go back to this whole insert-image-name-commodity or not?

    And where’s the movie about snake oil salesmen and their time machine? As resurrections, religions and “entertainment” goes….

    Funny thing as it seems as if the “nemesis” exposing all of that is the most googled celebrity the past year…