When I See Pharma Commercials

Last updated: May 2018

We see commercials for pharmaceutical drugs and treatments all the time now, but they don't seem to understand what it's really like to live with a chronic illness.

This is what I really think when I see a pharmaceutical commercial:

  • I'm not a mom.
  • I'm not a bride.
  • I'm not a swimmer (though I try to be).
  • I am not an "Actor Portrayal."
  • I don’t work full-time (something my health has taken from me).
  • I don't live 99% of my life in a bathroom or a public bathroom stall. I live it very publicly trying to hide the symptoms that are overwhelmingly hard to battle in silence.
  • My doctor’s appts aren’t always filled with smiles and welcoming faces.
  • My life isn't just about upside down smiley faces.
  • I fight in silence, so that I may appear normal in public.
  • My life involves far more medications than one simple swig of freshly placed water on a perfectly clean kitchen table top (illness can be quite messy, as things get pushed to the backburner when you're seriously ill).
  • Where are all the pictures of my lab draws? Of the 7 failed attempts before they had access to a vein?
  • Where are the scars? (physical and emotional)
  • Where are all the pictures of NG tubes?
  • Where are all the pictures of my white counts being elevated or nearly non-existent due to infections as a result of my medications?
  • Where are all of the pictures that I’ve never been in because I’ve missed those events due to embarrassing symptoms, isolation, hospital admissions or the time I've spent in fear that I will one day be completely erased from all of the “could be” pictures because of my illness taking me too soon?
  • When will we see each of our own lives accurately portrayed, as it is so difficult to even acknowledge some of our toughest experiences?
  • Do people realize that those who struggle with a lifelong illness don't suddenly get better overnight, but that it's a lengthy, trying and financially burdening process to get there.. or get close to there?
  • Do people realize when we look in the mirror, rarely do we recognize the reflection we see looking back at us? Do they realize how many of us cover up our mirrors in shame?
  • Where are my realities?!

I’m not sure exactly which companies have gotten it right and which ones have gotten it wrong; I certainly have opinions on both... but I struggle to actually think of an “ideal” commercial. There will always be criticism, but it is up to us as patient advocates to be as truthful and transparent as we can be, to show others what our realities actually are. Our lives are not what they appear to be on TV, though advertising is slowly getting better at depicting a smidgen of our lives each year.

It’s not just patients that are impacted by chronic disease and illness, missing their children's graduation, only to spend that time in the hospital. It’s brother’s and sisters who live in denial or fear that they will again have to say goodbye to a loved one, so instead of supporting them, they pretend their disease doesn’t exist, resulting in isolation of the patient family member. It’s nieces and nephews. It’s co-workers and bosses, who never seem to understand the the social, physical and emotional toll that comes with living with a chronic disease. It’s ignorance, because knowing the truth is just too much for some to bear.

THAT is my reality. How do you put THAT into a commercial?

It’s the kids we teach, the patients we treat, the non-profits we volunteer and serve at. It's the neighbors we greet, the loved ones we get together with and the coworkers we sit next to every day. Those people are also affected. Because despite all of our symptoms, our loss of dignity and having to explain ourselves in the most humiliating circumstances, we feel as though sometimes we are not enough and may never be. How would you put that into a campaign ad?

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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 InflammatoryBowelDisease.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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