Harvard Health Ad Watch: Can an arthritis drug help you become a morning person? – Harvard Health Blog

Perhaps this is obvious, but drug ads are not intended to inform you about the best way to treat a condition you may have. Their primary purpose is to sell a product, as explained in an earlier blog on direct-to-consumer drug ads. And the newest drugs tend to be the most expensive, even though some aren’t much better than older drugs.

So the ads you see for medications are usually not promoting the latest and greatest as much as they are promoting the newest and most expensive. And these ads vary widely in how much accurate, useful information is included and what information is left out. A recent ad for Xeljanz (tofacitinib) is a good example.

The ad: A focus on the morning

A woman is awakened by her son, who is carrying a toy dinosaur. She gives him breakfast, he straps on his dinosaur backpack, and they happily head out the door together. We see them arrive by school bus with his classmates at a museum’s dinosaur exhibit.

The first words you hear in this ad is the tagline, “Mornings were made for better things than rheumatoid arthritis.” I think we can all agree that this is true. But why is this a selling point?

Well, a prominent feature of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is morning stiffness. People with rheumatoid arthritis are usually much worse in the morning, struggling with an hour or more of stiffness before their joints loosen up. And in this ad, you’ve just seen the main character, a mom who presumably has RA, hop out of bed, full of energy, ready for the day.

The standard sequence for a drug ad

This particular ad follows a familiar sequence by

  • describing the approved use of the medication (“for adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis when
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