Health startups use TikTok to market prescription drugs, worrying experts

Pandemic-era relaxations to rules on prescribing drugs allowed mental health startups to reach more people, boosting their online advertising. However, the proliferation of marketing, especially on platforms like TikTok and Instagram that reach young people, has experts worried about the danger of overprescription, reported The New York Times May 13.

Mental-health startup Cerebral recently made the news and had to alter its marketing strategy given allegations of overprescriptions, and now it seems that more companies may have to be cautious of their own advertising strategies lest they succumb to the same fate. 

Many companies are hopping on viral sounds or video formats on TikTok to market prescription drugs for mental health disorders like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, often oversimplifying the disorder and its treatment, Olivia Little, a senior researcher at the nonprofit organization Media Matters for America, told the Times.

"They'll say things like, 'Have you ever felt overwhelmed?' 'Do you ever not want to do your homework?' Things that are very basic and universal," she told the Times

The consequences of taking medication for conditions like ADHD if you do not actually have the disorder can be dangerous, including changes in blood pressure, appetite suppression and cardiovascular issues, the Times reported.

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