If Pharma Commercials Had Honest ‘Before’ and ‘After’ Photos


The pharmaceutical companies think they know their target audiences.

For the most part, they probably do, if the waiting room at my rheumatologist is any indication. However, they kind of overestimate the “after” effect of medications on those of us with severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I made my sister take a staged pic of me for the “before” picture:

A photo of the author looking out the window, holding a mug, with the text "gloomy exterior," "whoa is me... I have rheumatoid arthritis," "sorrowful look," and "warm beverage for comfort"

This is the kind of thing you usually see in the beginning of commercials: She’s obviously so unhappy that the weather joins her unhappiness.

I was having a conversation with my rheumatologist at my last appointment about this subject and mentioned the sweater. It seems like, regardless of the ailment, all “before” people in drug commercials have the same gray sweater, exactly like the one I was wearing that day (which happens to be different from the one I am wearing in this picture, so maybe they have a point). Ahem, anyway…

This is what “before” actually looks like:

A photo of the author in bed with the blankets pulled over her
(Photo cred for this one goes to the 5-year-old, hah.)

OK, kind of, but kind of not. This is “home before,” whereas a normal person looking like she is normally going about her day is the real day-to-day, out-in-the-world “before.”

You deal with symptoms, no one figures them out, it drags on forever and you find ways to cope. That’s just how it goes.

“After,” as depicted in the advertising world (though no one says how long after, I guess) usually looks something like this:

A photo of the author's husband walking in a park with his daughter on his shoulders

Photo credit here goes to me, obviously. The photo is of my husband and little one, because the world in which I am an “after” doesn’t yet exist.

In “after” everyone always seems to be doing something super fun and happy without a care in the world. I mean, I try to do these things because I am a wife and a mother and a person, but I still mostly feel like the blanket cocoon 24/7, even while on like nine different medications.

My “after” looks more like this:

The author taking a photo in the bathroom
I’m just going to throw this gem in here… I went back and forth about whether to include my walker or not, so I went with a weird angle selfie that only shows the handle. That’s the obvious solution.

Pharmaceutical companies, maybe try to be a little more relatable. We’re watching, and we’re eye-rolling.

From my heating pad on my couch with my kid who is playing magic fairy unicorn on my shoulder, I’m signing off!

A photo of the author and her daughter

A version of this originally appeared on Positively Rheumatoid.


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