Medical advertisements have been on shaky ground for some time. Drug companies naturally want to get airtime showcasing the benefits of their medicines to receptive markets, while consumer advocacy groups are concerned that these promotional materials are misleading credulous people into making decisions that ultimately end up costing them. The case in point to date is Bayer, the makers of the Yasmin and Yaz oral contraceptives. Bayer has been slapped down on two different occasions for improper marketing practices.
The first incident was regarding Bayer’s claims that Yasmin is “a different kind” of contraceptive, and that it was safer than most other drugs in that class. Unfortunately for Bayer — and Yasmin users — no evidence had been presented to indicate that either claim is accurate. The second incident concerned a commercial that claimed Yaz was able to treat symptoms such as acne, PMS and weight control issues. Once again, the FDA had not cleared Yaz for any such treatments at all.
Now there is evidence that Bayer continues to skirt the line of decency in attempting to market its products. While not specifically advertising for Yaz in this case, there is evidence that Bayer hired presenters to go to parties and talk up the value of Bayer’s other contraceptive, an IntraUterine Device. As before, Bayer focused on image and trendiness, implying that users of the device were a sexy, social set of people who needed an easy and clever solution. While these claims might not seem bad in and of themselves, Bayer once again did not explain or downplayed the potential for risk while making a high-pressure and misleading sales pitch.
Should Bayer be permitted to market its medicines? Of course it should; people can make better medical choices when they know they have a handful of options rather than just one or two. And knowing the names of medicines allows patients to ask their physicians about them. However, a private party is not the correct venue for marketing contraceptive materials, and Bayer needs to get its act together if it wants to salvage its reputation.