Physicians rarely disclose payments from pharma when promoting drugs on Twitter

Numerous cancer physicians who promote medications on Twitter and receive payments from drugmakers rarely acknowledge the conflict of interest, according to a study published in The Lancet Haematology.

For the study, researchers analyzed the tweets of 156 blood cancer specialists who regularly tweeted and received at least $1,000 in general payments from drugmakers in 2014.

Eighty-eight percent of physicians tweeted about at least one drug manufactured by a drugmaker they received payments from. Of 4,358 drug mentions in the tweets, 52 percent focused on the conflicted drugs. Tweets about conflicted drugs were also more likely to be positive.

Only two of the 156 physicians disclosed their conflict of interest with drugmakers in their Twitter biographies.

"This is a big problem," Vinay Prasad, a professor at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland and senior author of the study, told Reuters. "Doctors are directly telling patients about their views on drugs, and financial conflict plays a role. But they're not telling patients they have a conflict."

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