Drug information, misinformation, and disinformation on social media: a content analysis study

Al Khaja, Khalid A. J.; AlKhaja, Alwaleed K.; Sequeira, Reginald P.
Journal of Public Health Policy

Dissemination of misleading drug information through social media can be detrimental to the health of the public. This study, carried out in Bahrain, evaluated the truthfulness of 22 social media claims about drugs (72.7%), dietary supplements (22.7%), and toxic bisphenol-A (4.5%). They circulated on WhatsApp platform, as case studies. We categorized claims as objectively true, false, or potentially misleading. The content analysis revealed that “potentially misleading” claims were the most frequent messages (59.1%). They tend to exaggerate the efficacy or safety without sufficient evidence to substantiate claims. False claims (27.3%) were likely due to unfair competition or deception. Overall, 13.6% of the messages were objectively true claims that could withstand regulatory scrutiny. Majority of the drug-related messages on social media were potentially misleading or false claims that lacked credible evidence to support them. In the public interest, regulatory authorities should monitor such information disseminated via social media platforms.