Cellular therapy injections in today's orthopedic market: A social media analysis.
Ramkumar PN., Navarro SM., Haeberle HS., Chughtai M., Demetriades C., Piuzzi NS., Mont MA., Bauer TW., Muschler GF.
BACKGROUND: The current state of cellular therapy for musculoskeletal conditions is at a crossroads. Marketing efforts are often outpacing clinical evidence and regulatory control. QUESTIONS/PURPOSES: This study was an effort to describe the marketing of cellular therapy in musculoskeletal medicine by evaluating the content in popular social media channels. Specifically, media posts were evaluated for the following: (1) perspective, (2) tone, (3) content and (4) visibility. PATIENT AND METHODS: Social media content related to cell therapy for musculoskeletal conditions was assessed in a search using 28 hashtags on the public domains of Instagram and Twitter over a 2-year period (2014-2016) that resulted in analysis of 698 posts. Supplemental analyses of LinkedIn and Facebook domains were also conducted. A categorical scoring system was used to analyze perspective (patient, family or friend, business or organization), tone (positive, negative), content (education, advertisement, research, media coverage or patient experience) and visibility (number of hashtags per post). Sub-analyses of the advertisement content from various perspectives (patients, physicians and businesses) were performed. RESULTS: The media perspective was most frequently from a business or organization (83%; n = 575). A total of 94% of the posts had a positive tone and only 6% had a negative tone, and the only negative posts came from patients (60% positive and 40% negative). The most common content of social media posts were advertisements, representing 68% (n = 477) of all posts; this was confirmed in the Facebook analysis. The mean number of hashtags was five per post. Sub-analyses revealed approximately half of the advertising posts originated from a single business that recruited physicians to market their cell-based therapies on social media, which was confirmed in the LinkedIn analysis. CONCLUSION: The market messages related to cell-based therapies for musculoskeletal conditions available on social media are dominated by businesses that seem to use a network of physicians, apply several hashtags to enhance visibility and advertise these largely unproven modalities. The posts portray an almost exclusively positive tone, without providing a "fair balance" on the risks, benefits and limitations.