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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sex in Media: Books, Magazines, Films, TV & More » Contraceptive Advertising Debacles

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Author Topic: Contraceptive Advertising Debacles
Executive Director & Founder
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Just wanted to bring your attention to something in the interest of consumer awareness. Really, it's just a sound reminder that ads -- be they for soda or birth control -- tend NOT to be a sound way of making choices, and with contraceptive methods, a conversation with your healthcare provider and doing your own research is going to be a much better way of finding a sound method for you than anything else.

From Rachel at Our Bodies, Our Blog:

Bayer recently launched commercials for the contraceptive drug Yaz that feature a female spokesperson and begin with a statement that the FDA thought Bayer’s previous ads were inadequate and asked Bayer to clear up a few things. “The F.D.A. wants us to correct a few points in those ads.”

...The FDA really did make them do it, though, issuing a warning letter [PDF] last October stating that “The TV Ads are misleading because they broaden the drug’s indication, overstate the efficacy of YAZ, and minimize serious risks associated with the use of the drug.”

Don’t remember the ads in question? If you sing “we’re not gonna take it” or “goodbye to you” [the songs used in the ads] to yourself and you picture women kicking away or popping balloons with words like “irritability” and “fatigue,” the ads will likely come to mind. Sarah Haskins featured one of the ads in her hilarious Target Women: Birth Control bit, and you can likely find them on YouTube.

You see, YAZ is approved for “PMDD” - premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a diagnosis essentially of severe PMS with depression-like symptoms that entered the general consciousness when the patent on Prozac was running out and so its maker repackaged the drug as Sarafem.

The ads, though, didn’t make that clear, that YAZ is not intended for regular PMS symptoms.

...Today’s New York Times has an article on the required new ads, including commentary from our own Judy Norsigian, who notes that this was an unusual move by the FDA:

“They rarely require these corrective campaigns,” said Judy Norsigian, the executive director of Our Bodies Ourselves, a health education and women’s advocacy group in Cambridge, Mass. But she said the popularity of the Yaz brand and the misleading ads had demanded a rare punishment. “These ads should never have been out there,” Ms. Norsigian said.

I know, too, that with all the advertising for Mirena, our clinic apparently had a spat of people having IUDs put in then taken out quickly thereafter, which seems to have had a lot to do with advertising. I know I lately get a lot of clients who walk in wanting nothing BUT Mirenas (which aren't even the only kind or brand of IUD, so that tells us a lot about the influence of advertising), not getting from the ads that it's not the best thing for everyone, and that many women are NOT good candidates for IUDs.

[ 02-14-2009, 05:44 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Interesting post.

Regarding the women who had IUDs inserted and then taken out immediately, were they initially advised by their HCP that they may not be good candidates for it? If someone was insistent on a method that you thought was unsuitable for them, what would you do?

Just curious, is there any hormonal IUD other than Mirena? Or were you referring to coppers?

"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

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I have the Nuvaring. I had wanted it long before I saw the ads for it. I am not sure how perfect their ads are thought.

I have a big issue with percriptions being sold to people via the tv ads. It should be the drs talking the meds up not the patients telling the drs that "I want this pill because of xyz and if you don't perscribe it I'll find someone who will". I mean there has to be a way to alert people that there are things to help if the problem exsists without telling them that they need to talk to their dr about this.

I HATE HATE HATE the Detrol LA commercials. I'm sorry what's the big deal if you go to the bathroom more than once or twice a day. They make it sound like if you have to go badly at the end of a class or after sitting in a court room then something is wrong. I can be sitting in the livingroom and suddenly have to go really bad but I don't need a pill to make it stop.

The drug makers are trying to make every body function very mechanical and not natural. I know that I am on BC to do some regulating and to make it so that I don't have a baby before I'm ready for it. I also know that there are people that really do need the medicines but I don't think that making it so public and having people going in and requesting pills is a slippery slope.

Sorry for the ramble.

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From my experience both in clinic settings and from some of the literature, it seems that Rx drug advertising is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, yes...there are some people who will insist on a given med no matter what. And there is some question about whether this kind of advertising (in addition to a number of other cultural factors) are making us hyper-aware or paranoid about our bodies.

On the other hand, there is some indication that this encourages health literacy and patient participation in decision-making. In other words, because there is so much information available about treatment options, some patients are coming to appointments more educated about things. They may feel better able to participate and assert their own opinions, wants, and needs. In this respect, TV advertising is beneficial because it has one of the largest mass media reaches, especially in terms of groups who may not have access via other means (for example, not everyone has internet access). To be honest as well, many health care providers still come from the "I'm the authority" perspective of other words, there are many doctors who aren't "talking up" meds to patients...they're saying this is the treatment, period. If patients aren't aware that there are other options, then they are unlikely to question and thus may just take whatever...whether there is something that would be better for their individual situation & lifestyle or not.

I agree with Heather that certainly the advertising is mainly about selling product and that there are some huge problems with ads that are not clear or may leave incorrect impressions. But I also don't see that the advertising is a bad thing does make people more aware of choices and it can be a conversation starter.

Sarah Liz

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I hear you in your second para, Sarah. My only quibble with that is that it seems to me that often for a medication getting highly marketed, that's where a lot of doctor's biases also lie: in other words, the reps are usually ALSO marketing the providers with the same frenzy. Know what I mean?

Eryn: per your question, I'd say a lot of women just didn't get a whole lot of information from their providers, but yes, some have reported their providers advised against it. Some coming back to us were advised against it by us, too.

When I personally have a client I'm counseling insistent on a method I don't think is a good choice -- but not so bad the doctor is going to refuse it -- and they really aren't interested in other methods I think would be better for them (though often, just making other suggestions and filling them in on methods they have not seen advertised, or filling them in on what the ads do NOT say makes all the diff) I let them try it. One, they may well know better than I, but too, they get to make choices for themselves which may not be the best ones. And with an IUD I don't think is so sound, I usually just remind them that having it put in is costly, as is having it removed.

(I was referring to the Paraguard, yes.)

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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I must say I found Drug adverts really baffling when I first saw them... the only drugs advertised over here are for cold, flu, indigestion and heartburn.

It may be good that there is stuff on tv showing people that they can be involved in their drug choices (I think there is more Dr authority here which may, as we've said, be negative) but I was so shocked, when I visited the US, to see all the things that were added to drugs like vitamin content, (period suppression), relieving fatigue, and the sort of personal targeting and emotional bargaining.

For me drugs are a risk... so any confusion over what a drug is meant for or what extras it has ontop of it's main use are just such a dangerous thing which I find very worrying.

I'd only even heard of Yaz from working at a hospital, who's management is where marketing is targeted here.

Jacob - my Scarleteen Blog - Please help sustain scarleteen

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Just for the sake of providing background for this discussion, I did want to pop in and explain the current Rx drug advertising regulations in the US. All direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising in the US falls under the jurisdiction of the FDA. There are only 3 types of ads that are allowed:
  1. Product-claim ads - These advertisements mention the product name and what it intended to treat. They also MUST list both the benefits and the risks of using the drug.
  2. Reminder ads - These ads give only the product name (not what it is used for) and do not have to list risks/benefits.
  3. Help-seeking (or disease awareness) ads - These ads give only information about a disease or condition and suggest that you talk to your doctor. They do not mention the product name, risks, or benefits.

Most of the ads you see today are of the product-claim variety. The second most common type would likely be help-seeking. You also don't see nearly as many reminder ads today as you would have seen 10 years ago.

In 1997, the government did relax some of the rules about explaining risks in TV and radio ads (I believe this is when they said that you still had to mention the main risks, but could refer the consumer to other places {like a magazine ad or website} for full risk information). There has also been increased discussion in the past few years about changing the rules to allow the FDA to vet ads before they are broadcast and require changes at that point.

With regard to the way drugs are marketed to doctors in the US, there are also some voluntary changes to the way that process works right now.
From "Free gifts to health care professionals now a no-no":

On Jan. 1, PhRMA’s voluntary Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals, which many companies follow, was revised to prohibit handing out non-educational reminders, including branded “reminder” items like pens and mugs branded with a logo. The code acknowledged that even though the items aren’t worth much money, they may be seen as causing a conflict of interest and being ethically unsound.

[ 02-17-2009, 12:54 PM: Message edited by: KittenGoddess ]

Sarah Liz

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Yeah, we don't get any drug pens (or post-its, or mugs, or anything) anymore from the drug reps who come in to our office every week. We do, however, still get free lunch [Smile]

This is just one more instance where media literacy is just so important. Particularly working in HIV there's been quite a bit of good, I think, from more drug advertisements. In some ways, I think it's helped lessen stigma and open up more conversation around HIV/AIDS that has been helpful. And certainly there are some folks who have been positive for so long and need that hope that is instilled when they realize there are some newer medications available and being out put there.

But it can be hard to wade through the hype. Those ads are never long enough to get into the real clinical judgment that goes along with working with a patient to come up with a medication or treatment that will minimize harm and maximize benefits, all while fitting with the individual's needs and lifestyle.

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CJ, you brought up how drug advertisements can sometimes lessen stigma. Do you feel this is true with the Valtrex commercials and herpes?

Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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I'm a pharmacy technician, and I see all the time how people are always getting ripped off with brand name medication.

(I'm gonna rant a little, but just remember, while i have some inside advice, i'm not a doctor or pharmacist, and therefore not legally allowed to counsel people- but i can give my input in random forums.)

The thing is, people who don't work in medical settings, have internet acces or other means of research don't often know how many other drugs are available that do the exact same thing.

A common trend is controlled or extended release drugs. That means, that just before or after a drug's patent runs out, The company tends to redo the same drug in a higher dose and slower disolving form.

Essentially, People are paying hundreds of dollars a month so they can take a pill once a day, where it might otherwise cost less than $10 dollars a month to take a lower dose twice a day.

Another example is dose changes. For example, a little less than a year ago, Bayer's patent for yasmin ran out. It is now being sold under the generic name Ocella, which is much more affordable, and an excelent drug from my experience.

But now, Bayer has released Yaz. The only difference between Yasmin and Yaz is that Yasmin has 0.03 mg of ethynil estridiol (the estrogen part) , and Yaz has 0.02.

I immagine for some women who are very sensitive to estrogen, this might make a difference. However, to the rest of the people who are switching to Yaz because they think it's going to get rid of their PMS, they'll see no difference besides emptier wallets.

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