Doctors Turn to Social Media to Combat Fake Medical News

To counter the fake medical news trend, many doctors are now active on social media platforms like X (formerly Twitter)
An increasing number of issues are arising from the use of doctors' names for propaganda on social media and the general distribution of false and potentially harmful medical information. (Representational image: Unsplash)
An increasing number of issues are arising from the use of doctors' names for propaganda on social media and the general distribution of false and potentially harmful medical information. (Representational image: Unsplash)

When a deepfake video featuring well-known cardiologist Dr. Naresh Trehan endorsing diet pills went viral in March, it raised serious concerns among medical professionals. An increasing number of issues are arising from the use of doctors' names for propaganda on social media and the general distribution of false and potentially harmful medical information.

Dr. Arvinder Soin, Chairman and Chief Surgeon of Medanta Liver Transplant Institute, states that there are three different kinds of fake news on the internet. "First, doctors promote unverified products or give advice they haven't given. Second, influencers promote unverified or untested products. And third, information and news from sources that aren't legitimate at all."

To counter this trend, many doctors are now active on social media platforms like X (formerly Twitter). Dr. Soin, who is active on X, believes that doctors have a responsibility to educate the public about health.

Awareness about distinguishing myths from facts online is becoming increasingly important. Many doctors are seeing the negative impact of fads, trends, and fake products on their patients. "I have had patients come to me with belladonna poisoning, severe weakness from not eating carbs, and liver issues from overconsumption of protein," says Dr. Ankit Garg, a general physician from Pune.

Many doctors are seeing the negative impact of fads, trends, and fake products on their patients. 
 (Representational image: Pixabay)
Many doctors are seeing the negative impact of fads, trends, and fake products on their patients. (Representational image: Pixabay)

Digital guidelines are often incomplete and don't provide warnings about side effects or limits on consumption. "During COVID, we had nearly 20 cases of giloy poisoning as people began to consume it for better immunity and health," says Dr. Soin. He adds that while the internet is convenient, it's crucial for people to access legitimate information from hospitals, doctors, government resources, and health organizations.

"Medical drugs and treatments go through extensive clinical trials and research before hitting the market," Dr. Soin explains. "A number of products out there haven't been through the same rigorous process and can end up being harmful. Additionally, even products that have been tested should not be taken without a doctor's consultation."

In India, many drugs, particularly antibiotics, are available without a prescription. Other drugs can often be bought with fake prescriptions. When a drug or treatment goes viral, doctors feel it is important to push real information into the digital space to prevent self-medication and misuse.

Ozempic, a diabetes medication gaining popularity for its impact on weight, is one example. "This is not a drug that people should be popping like Crocin. Only a doctor can decide whether, how much, and how long diabetic medicines should be taken," says Dr. Ambrish Mithal, Delhi-based endocrinologist.

(Input from various sources)

(Rehash/ Susmita Bhandary/MSM)

An increasing number of issues are arising from the use of doctors' names for propaganda on social media and the general distribution of false and potentially harmful medical information. (Representational image: Unsplash)
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