Why You Could See More Big Pharma Ads on Facebook

November 1st 2016

Kyle Jaeger

You might start to notice a surge in pharmaceutical advertising on your Facebook feed in the near future, according to a report from Stat News' Rebecca Robbins. In a bid to collect more ad revenue from deep-pocketed drug companies, Facebook is rolling out new features meant to encourage social media marketing from the pharmaceutical industry. 

Though drug companies have been allowed to advertise through sponsored posts that appear on users' news feeds and along the right column, the industry has generally avoided social media advertisements out of concern about violating federal regulations. In response, Facebook has created new features meant to help pharmaceutical companies avoid regulatory pitfalls. 

Those pharma perks include the following:

  1. Disabled comment sections on Facebook pages that advertise certain products. This is attractive to pharmaceutical companies because they "could get in hot water with regulators if it failed to report unverified aches and pains posted by patients in Facebook comments as 'adverse events' that could result from taking the drug," Stat News reported.
  2. Sponsored "community pages" for people suffering from medical conditions. 
  3. Product advertising campaigns. One of the first examples of this comes out of a deal with Bayer, which is advertising a device used to administer medicine that treats multiple sclerosis through a mobile Facebook ad campaign. "[T]he ad plays like a video, automatically scrolling through a litany of possible side effects, such as liver failure, serious allergic reactions, and depression or suicidal thoughts."

The pharmaceutical industry has been slow to invest in digital advertising, but its collective advertising spending (more than $5 billion in 2015 alone) reveals why Facebook would be making the push.


Internet ads accounted for just 10 percent of the industry's marketing spending in 2014, AdWeek reported. But other metrics such as Twitter activity by drug companies — which have increased by about 530 percent since 2013, according to a 2015 study from Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide — indicate that the industry is becoming more comfortable with social media platforms.

"[A]lthough [drug companies] see the benefits, many are reluctant to wade into the social waters," Forbes reported. "With good reason. Without proper planning, controls and staff training, firms risk fines, sanctions and worse, damage to their reputation."

ATTN: reached out to Facebook for comment, but a representative was not immediately available. We will update this story when we hear back.

[h/t Stat News]