Although the sharing of misleading information is likely as old as humanity, an unfortunate concomitant of the current digital environment is the amplification and accelerated spread of medical misinformation.1,2 Growing distrust of medical professionals is causing some people to eschew drugs that have been proven effective, such as statins for hypercholesterolemia3 and chemotherapy for cancer.4 Communities marked by pockets of vaccine refusal have seen the re-emergence of diseases, such as measles,5 that had been virtually eliminated from the United States. A child who needlessly experiences disabilities caused by measles, an adult who dies after stopping a statin despite having high-risk coronary artery disease, and a patient with cancer who ceases chemotherapy in favor of a bogus alternative all are victims of misleading information that is being promulgated on social media and other internet platforms. Although some in the medical profession grasp the scope and severity of this threat and have appropriately sounded an alarm, health professionals, for the most part, professional societies, and relevant government entities have been slow to address this issue.6 Unless effective action is taken, significant numbers of unsuspecting individuals will experience poor outcomes from disease, incur financial harms, or may even die prematurely.
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Perakslis E, Califf RM. Employ Cybersecurity Techniques Against the Threat of Medical Misinformation. JAMA. 2019;322(3):207–208. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.6857
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