Unrealistic Arthritis Medication Ads

Last updated: January 2022

Have you noticed how good people in arthritis advertisements look? Each time I see one of those commercials, I think, wow, I want to feel like that. Inject this or ingest that, and you can be a pro golfer, or get on your hands and knees and select tiles, or you can swing a sledgehammer. Cool, I need some of that.

Unfortunately, it never seems to turn out exactly that way. Now do not get me wrong, I know the biologic I use is lifesaving, and it helps me immensely but, swing a 10-pound sledgehammer over my shoulder? Not so much. We are told that commercials are exaggerated versions of what might be if only I used their medication.

Using people with arthritis

Recently manufacturers have taken to using real people with arthritis in their commercials. I was sent an email recently asking if I wanted to be an extra in a commercial for an unnamed arthritis product. They wanted people with arthritis to make background appearances. The best part, if selected they would pay for my service.

All I needed to do was arrive in New York City on the appointed day at 5:00 AM, and if selected, I would receive the fantastic sum of $65.00. Since I live nowhere near New York City, I decided to pass on the opportunity, but I am sure they had plenty of takers.

I am delighted that they at least reached out to people with arthritis, even if it meant that those who appear might or might not be selected. I never did find out what the product is, so I keep watching these commercials trying to guess if these people look like they have arthritis? Does it matter if they do?

More invisibility

What I might see on TV commercials is that the products being advertised make arthritis even more invisible. Like if only I took this, look at what I could do. Want to hike the Rocky Mountains? Use this medication. Want to host a dinner party of twenty? Take this.

But how many of these commercials tell the truth? Take this and look; getting out of bed is not so difficult most days. Driving some days might be possible. Going to the grocery store might even be fun. I do not see any struggle. I see the instant restoration of movement, the instant reduction of pain, the immediate cessation of weariness. Instant energy, seeming restoration of function, problem solved, let us go on now.

Creating false expectations for people with arthritis

The problem is not the believability among those who have arthritis, as much as it is the expectation of those who do not. An acquaintance of mine asked in an offhand way how I was doing. I said not so good, I was off my biologic medication for a few months, and it was getting tougher by the day.

My friend said, oh, I did not know you have to use arthritis medications that often. He thought I took that magic pill or infusion, and magically I was cured. No, I remarked, not cured at all, instead I get some relief for various amounts of time. Well, then I bet you cannot wait to get your finger movement back. Oh no, I remarked I do not get anything back when I use the biologics to prevent future deterioration.

I could almost see the wheels in his head turning, thinking that is not what I see on TV. Because on TV you take these medications and look like you are better. Well, pardon me, I wish that were the way it worked. But let me assure you that complicated heart surgery is not performed in 5 minutes and taking one of these medications does not restore my movement or health. It was odd to draw his attention that, like life, arthritis cannot be summed up, corrected, put back in the genie's bottle, and sealed up with one pill, treatment, or injection. It is so much more complicated than all that.

I am not distant

Unfortunately, the further people are away from the source of the pain or frustration, the less likely they will ever understand that arthritis is a long-haul disease for most of us. Getting to relief will take some false starts, lots of time, and many errors. Then just when we get it right, our body puts up a new defense, and we start over again.

No, I am not angry with the advertisers; in a way, advertising is selling us the easier way out. They often exaggerate the outcome with the knowledge that what is portrayed is not exactly what you will experience. I can live with that; I understand it and am okay with that because I know the contract between patient and advertiser.

But of course, most people who watch these advertisements do not have that same contract. To them, arthritis is a problem, and these medications are the solution and tie it up in a bow. Let us get back to playing beach volleyball in the summer sun of South Beach. It is no wonder so many people ask how to discuss arthritis with their family, dates, co-workers, or friends. For most of my friends, it is a matter of taking this, and you get that. If only you took this, you too could serve twenty guests for dinner with a smile on your face.

It is better if advertisers paint a more realistic picture of the outcomes of their products. Instead of putting actual arthritis patients in the background, they should consider placing arthritis on display. If a company did that, I doubt they would sell many products, but they would have truth in advertising and truth counts these days.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AxialSpondyloarthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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