A deepfake video of noted cardiologist Dr Naresh Trehan, back in March, promoting weightloss medicines went viral, prompting concerns within the medical fraternity about the increasing trend of misuse of doctors' names on social media for propaganda or mischief and the rampant dissemination of wrong and potentially fatal medical information on the internet.

"There are three types of fake news online. One, doctors promoting unverified products or giving advice that they haven't; second, influencers promoting unverified or untested products; and the third, information and news from sources that aren't legitimate at all," explains Dr Arvinder Soin, chairman and chief surgeon, Medanta Liver Transplant Institute.

Dr Soin is now on social media platform X (formerly Twitter), a trend many other doctors are taking to in the hope of countering unscientific information and myths in the digital space. "Doctors have a responsibility to educate the public on health," adds Dr Soin.

Awareness on how to sift myth from fact in the online space is increasingly becoming important. Many doctors are witnessing the fallout of fads, trends and fake products being consumed by their patients. "I have had patients come to me with belladonna poisoning, with severe weakness from not eating carbs, and with liver issues from over-consumption of protein," says Dr Ankit Garg, a general physician from Pune.

The reason behind such crises is digital guidelines often being incomplete, not giving out warnings on 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 is also important for people to access legitimate information from sources such as hospitals, doctors, government resources and health organisations.

"Medical drugs and treatments go through extensive clinical trials and research before hitting the market. 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," advises Dr Soin.

In India, a number of drugs, particularly antibiotics, are available without a medical prescription. Other drugs can often be purchased using duplicate or fake prescriptions. So when a drug or treatment goes viral, doctors now feel it is important for them to push real information into the digital domain to prevent self-medications and misuse.

Ozempic, the diabetic medicine that is gaining popularity due to its impact on weight, is one such 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 noted Delhi-based endocrinologist Dr Ambrish Mithal.

Whether it is Dr Tanaya Narendra spreading facts on sexual health or Dr Cyriac Abby Philips, who writes on medical misinformation, the digital space not only needs but welcomes those who are there to provide legitimate, verified medical truths.

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2024-06-15T19:49:38Z dg43tfdfdgfd