Digital Digging

Using Social Media to Shed Light on Investigations

Global Risk and Investigations

March 4, 2014

A major pharmaceutical company recently approached FTI Consulting after having uncovered a significant number of counterfeit and product tampering issues surrounding one of their popular insulin products. It was soon determined that many of the incidents reported involved a simple delivery system in which the insulin had been removed by the counterfeiters and replaced with other substances that could cause serious adverse effects in diabetic patients. By the time the FTI Consulting team was engaged, the client company had already received hundreds of product complaints across a wide swath of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), in over 10 separate provinces.

According to traditional methodology, an investigator might wait for the client to receive complaints, and then attempt to trace those complaints back to the petitioners for further information. At FTI Consulting, we engaged in a more proactive approach – social media mining. This involved conducting daily monitoring of tens of thousands of online forums and social networking sites for mention of the product in question. Ultimately, these efforts uncovered just what we were hoping to find: potential victims who had used the fake drug and were airing their grievances using a variety of social network forums.

Through this method, our team discovered a series of uncatalogued pages that made up part of a popular forum website. Listed on these pages were a range of advertisements from entities claiming to specialise in the recycling of medical products – including the client product in question. Subsequent social media monitoring activity uncovered further advertisements posted by these entities with regards to the collection of used insulin delivery machines, from which the team was able to identify a number of mobile phone contact numbers that were being used consistently across advertisements. As a result, FTI Consulting is now working with our client to shut down the fake insulin traders and engage potential witnesses to build an enforcement case against a number of PRC wide syndicates. An outcome made possible by our extensive knowhow in utilising social media mining to pinpoint the right leads.

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