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Bad Medical Marketing: An Ad The FDA Should Pull

If ever a medical device company crossed a line with their marketing, this one has. Essure, which makes a sterilization device for women, is trying to scare men away from vasectomy in order to drive women to use their device.

“We made men watch footage of an actual vasectomy,” says the female voiceover — and then they proceed to show men’s reactions to watching a surgical procedure, with “That’s frickin’ gross, man” being the most memorable quote. The final tagline: “You can only wait so long for him to man up.” Yeah, and to be sure he doesn’t, they’ve created this ad.

The ad is slimy, harmful, obnoxious, and just plain stupid. A couple’s decision as to which sterilization procedure is best for them should be one informed by real information, not frat-boy marketing.

How dare they? The FDA should pull this ad — now.


Addendum: I just emailed the FDA at Feel free to copy my message below and send your own email:

To the FDA,

I find this ad for Essure both inflammatory and unethical. I am incensed at the impact this ad could have on couples’ informed choices about sterilization. I ask that you mandate that the company who makes Essure immediately pull this ad, both from the Web and from any media outlet where it’s playing.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog That Ate Manhattan*

Big Herba’s Research Deficit: Why It Isn’t About The Money

This is a guest post from Erik Davis of Skeptic North.


Bankers, Buyouts & Billionaires: Why Big Herba’s Research Deficit Isn’t About The Money

It’s a scene from the blogosphere that’s become all too familiar. A skeptic challenges a natural health product for the lack of an evidentiary base. A proponent of that product responds that the skeptic has made a logical error — an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and in such a scenario it’s not unreasonable to rely on patient reporting and traditional uses as a guide. The skeptic chimes back with a dissertation on the limits of anecdotal evidence and arguments from antiquity — especially when the corresponding pharma products have a data trail supporting their safety and efficacy. The proponent responds that it’s unfair to hold natural health products to the same evidentiary standard, because only pharma has the money to fund proper research, and they only do so for products they can patent. You can’t patent nature, so no research into natural health products gets done.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t a scene from an actual blog. The participants are way too civil, the arguments too coherent, and no one has been compared to Hitler. But it’s not a straw man either (look herehere, and here for recent examples), merely a distillation of an argument I’ve seen made repeatedly — that the deck has been stacked by Big Pharma, which has set a research bar that the much poorer natural health industry can’t possibly meet given the costs and lack of financial upside.

In my observation, skeptics don’t often have a good response to this argument beyond their basic scientific disposition toward only making assertions based on positive evidence. Typically, that’s not a disposition shared by the proponent, and thus they simply agree to disagree (read: trade barbs until the thread peters out from fatigue). Yet this need not be a purely philosophical debate. After all, there’s a testable premise embedded in this disagreement — that the natural health industry isn’t rich enough to sustain proper research. Is that true? Read more »

Why Science Should Override Celebrity

Dr. Barron Lerner has written a book about breast cancer: “The Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, Fear, and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America.” And he’s written a book about celebrity patients: “When Illness Goes Public: Celebrity Patients and How We Look at Medicine.” He wed the two topics in a blog post on the New York Times health blog entitled “Suzanne Somers, Cancer Expert.” Excerpts:

“Earlier this week, NBC’s “Dateline” devoted an entire hour on Sunday evening to allow the actress Suzanne Somers to express her rather unconventional beliefs about cancer.

It is not the first time a major media outlet has given air time to Ms. Somers, whose journey into the medical realm has been featured on a variety of news programs, talk shows and entertainment channels. A few years ago, Oprah Winfrey invited Ms. Somers on her show to share the secrets behind her youthful appearance — a complex regimen of unregulated hormone creams and some 60 vitamins and supplements.

But is it entirely outrageous that respected media organizations continue to give the “Three’s Company” sitcom star a platform to dispense medical advice? Not really, in a world in which celebrities have become among the most recognizable spokespeople — and sometimes experts — about various diseases.

…patients — especially those who want to explore every possible avenue — have the right to know that there are unorthodox cancer therapies that some people believe are helpful.

But not without several caveats, and that is where Ms. Somers, and many of those in the media who discuss her books and views, have failed. Ms. Somers says she is promoting hope, but false hope benefits no one.

Many people with end-stage cancer are, understandably, desperate, and thus potentially vulnerable to a sales pitch — even an expensive one. But here is a case when an informed patient may truly be a wiser patient. Perhaps if doctors were more willing to address the fact that these nontraditional treatments exist, and share what we do and don’t know about their effectiveness, an actress like Ms. Somers would have less influence, and science would override celebrity.”

There’s been quite an online response to Dr. Lerner’s blog post. One reader wrote, succinctly:

“From Thigh Master to Snake Oil.”

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

“Clinically Proven?” There’s No Such Thing

I heard yet another commercial on the radio this morning for some menopausal cure-all that was “clinically proven” to reduce hot flashes, improve sleep, increase energy, help you lose weight, and probably cure bad breath to boot. Anyone who calls in the next ten minutes gets a month’s supply for free. “Hurry.” Don’t.

At least they finally stopped running the one for the colon cleansing product that helped remove the “five to ten pounds of waste some experts* believe are spackled along the inside of the large intestine.” (*Emphasis mine. “Some experts” also believe the moon landing was a hoax, the Holocaust never happened, and homeopathy is effective medicine.) Somehow this colon cleansing stuff helps you preferentially lose belly fat. Not really sure what belly fat has to do with five to ten pounds of stuff spackled inside your intestine, but they’re not selling logic. “Call right now for your free sample.” Or not.

Then there was the pediatrician hawking the natural, safe, clinically-proven effective sinus cure that sounded suspiciously like saline spray. “Hurry and call right now.” Don’t bother.

Words are my friends, and I hate to see people abuse them.

Clinical” is an adjective referring to “that which can be observed in or involves patients.” It’s the hands-on part of medicine that can’t be replicated in a lab or taught from a book. There is virtually no such thing as “proof” in the scientific sense. Laboratory and patient-based medical research can strongly suggest things. Scientific evidence can accumulate supporting things, and the more the better, of course. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

Is February Heart-Marketing Month?

Heart disease and February: What relationship could be more cozy? From the scary risks of shoveling snow (yep, you could die, so be sure to lift a little at a time), Mercedes-sponsored red dress parades and government-sponsored National Wear Red Day®, to tips for identifying heart attacks in women (men, you need a different month I guess), February has all the important stories to improve your awareness. Such a polite term “awareness.”

But I wonder, now that the Internet is upon us and people are seeing their insurance rates and co-pays skyrocket, if maybe we’re shooting ourselves in the foot with all this heart-month marketing hype. People are sick and tired of testing “just to be sure.” It’s starting to directly cost them a fortune, and people are frustrated at having to pay a fortune for healthcare, let alone heart care.

I know, I know — I should be at the forefront of working with patients to stomp out heart disease. And goodness, people DO need to be attuned to diet, exercise, and weight loss. But the reality is, if we’re giving you the 10 latest tips on how to detect a heart attack, we’re probably a bit too late.

That’s the problem with all these press releases: While there’s a need to raise “awareness” of heart health, there’s also a very real need for people to take us — heart disease professionals — seriously to help cut costs in healthcare here. The last thing our healthcare system needs is more frivolous testing. Yet this is exactly what all this marketing does for our healthcare system — and it helps those with the largest PR budgets most of all. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

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