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Dear TV Commercials Advertising Crohn's Medications: Stop. Just Stop.

Even after 40 years of Crohn’s disease (CD) I still marvel at how I sick I can feel on any given day. There are days I feel almost normal and then there are days where it all floods back to me and I feel as beaten down and as emotionally frustrated as when I was first diagnosed. On those days, like so many people with a chronic disease, I like to turn on the television to binge watch something funny so I can get out of my own head for a few hours.

The television turns on and I am bombarded with pharmaceutical ads showing me their totally illogical vision of what Crohn’s disease looks like. It dawns on me that I am never able to get relief from the reminder I have Crohn’s since there are so many commercials for biologic medications, and new ones showing up daily. So, I listen and watch the commercial presentations!


“Do you suffer from moderate to severe Crohn’s disease?” and I see a very nicely dressed woman in light tan or white pants (yeah, that is just so wrong on so many levels since no one with chronic diarrhea wears anything but black or navy blue, for a change) sitting with her friends in a lovely restaurant laughing and enjoying a nice lunch which, I can’t remember, but probably shows them all eating salads (that won’t happen, either).

In the next frame, the alleged Crohn’s sufferer has a sad look and is slowly strolling towards the ladies’ room as the commercial voices over with a saddened voice sharing that CD is not only a bathroom disease, yada, yada, yada. That woman would be sprinting to the ladies’ room and it would have been the fifth time since they entered the restaurant that she went!

I am immediately incensed. First of all, none of these actors has ever had CD, and no one struggling with “moderate to severe CD” is living life as they present it. This misrepresentation does a great disservice. It presents CD in its almost worst form as something that is barely getting in the way of her living her normal life and looking more healthy than many people. It also presents to the rest of the world, family, friends, other medical practitioners not as familiar with the disease, that this disease, even at its worst, isn’t that bad and we are oversensitive, overdramatic and it must be more a disease of our stress, anxiety and/or imagination.

I can’t tell you how many times I read on online support sites how we are all told, if we just did one thing or another we’d be fine, or if we took that drug they saw shown on TV last night after Dateline, or changed our diets we’d be cured, because, look at those people in those ads – they are fine, holding down jobs and living life. “Why aren’t you able to hold down a job?” “Why are you always sick?” “You need that medication that is advertised. It is the answer to your problems.”

I understand that if drug companies showed what the disease really looked like it would scare the heck out of people, but that is real life. No one wants to see someone in sweats who hasn’t showered in days, can barely get between the bed and the bathroom, is in so much joint and muscle pain they can barely sleep, so they are up all hours of the day and night, and who has to constantly cancel plans with friends and family, all of whom are beginning to think they are faking it or avoiding them! Let’s be honest: sugarcoating commercials is good for business.

And, while we are at it, why are we showing medications on TV anyway? It isn’t as if we can order it from Amazon Prime and have a real input into our medical treatments. That is slowly being taken away by our insurance companies and stores like CVS, who will now decide how much medication we really need for our disease, despite their not knowing us, our histories or our needs!

So, stop, just stop presenting these people in a way that is both unrealistic and unfair. Start having real patients do ads for you. Speak to the real face of CD and stop speaking for us since you are neither speaking our language or speaking in a way that presents our medical, physical and emotional needs correctly.

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Thinkstock photo via boggy22.