The FDA Cracks Down

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If you watched Grey’s Anatomy last week (I know…go ahead and judge me), you might have seen a rather unusual ad for the birth control pill Yaz. I was about to hit the mute button when the Yaz actress looked into the camera and said, “You may have seen some Yaz commercials recently that were not clear. The FDA wants us to correct a few points in those ads.” 

Ouch. The spot was part of a new $20 million advertising campaign that Bayer is required to run as a correction to earlier misleading claims about Yaz, currently the top-selling birth control pill in the U.S. Apparently the contraceptive market wasn’t big enough for Bayer, so the company started claiming that Yaz also had wonder powers to cure acne and prevent premenstrual syndrome in an attempt to expand its customer base. 

The ad may not be entirely what the FDA had in mind–it does admit that some of the company’s claims were overstated but insists that research shows the pill is still effective at treating “some” PMS symptoms. The effect is something like a teenager admitting that, okay, she shouldn’t have taken the car but she had a really good reason and no one got hurt anyway.

But the correction is significant nonetheless. The FDA rarely takes this sort of punitive action, but it’s becoming increasingly necessary as pharmaceutical companies take more and more liberties with their claims. A recent Rolling Stone exposé explored a similar case in which an anti-psychotic was marketed to treat everyone from anorexics to hyperactive kids to grieving seniors. It’s a must-read and may leave you thinking it wouldn’t be such a terrible thing to have this new and improved bad-ass FDA in town.