When it launched in October, Biogen's Tecfidera commercial notched a milestone as the first TV commercial to address relapsing multiple sclerosis (RMS). However, since then the ad has become a point of contention in some MS circles with commentary playing out on blogs and social media.
On one side are MS patients who say that the ad showing an active young woman--hiking, swimming and going to an amusement park--is an unrealistic portrayal of the amount of energy they have and what medication can do. On the other side are MS patients who are glad to see the condition on TV because it raises awareness.
"What on earth are you thinking?" wrote MS patient blogger Laura Kolaczkowski in a post written as a letter to Biogen on her "Inside My Story" website. She wrote: "Multiple sclerosis treatment shouldn't be shown as another 'tiny blue pill' ad like Viagra, but that is certainly the message that screams at me from this one. You show everyone that if we take this blue pill once a day, we can do anything.
"I am the first one to be encouraging, but your ad takes it beyond that. Even people with 'normal' health will not hike, swim and go to the fair in one day and still look so good; someone with MS would be out of the day before they hit noon."
She was also one of more than 125 commenters at iSpot.tv, many of whom said the ad was unrealistic. Some even called for it to be pulled off the air. An iSpot spokesman said, when asked about the volume of Tecfidera comments, that it was a large response compared to most ad feedback.
Jack Barrette, CEO of patient social network WeGo Health, said via email, "We are definitely hearing loud and clear from our MS patient community leaders that some television DTC is presenting an unrealistic view of people with MS, and that they are forced to handle not just outrage but confusion about these medications. Top leaders of our community would replace huge TV spends with in-depth digital programs that can share the true patient voice."