Source: RLS Foundation
[Read back story on Pharma Marketing Blog: "RLS Foundation (aka GSK?) Calls for Boycott of Consumer Reports Over Ad Spoof"
November 13, 2007
Dear Mr. McKean,
On November 1, 2007, Consumer Reports ran an online spot entitled: “Finally, an antidote to TV drug ads.” Included with a letter from you, the Editorial Director, was a video clip of Jamie Hirsh breaking down an advertisement for Requip, a drug used to treat restless legs syndrome (RLS).
As Executive Director of the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation, I am also a subscriber to your magazine. And as of last week, I was a subscriber who loved getting my copy of Consumer Reports each month. Unfortunately, after the display on your website, I am now a subscriber who will look elsewhere for my product information. I plan to cancel my subscription immediately.
As I watched this video you called “entertaining” and “fun,” I couldn’t think of two words that would describe what I watched any less. It would have been one thing if you presented information in a professional and appropriate manner, but instead, you poked fun at a condition that at least 3% of the U.S. population suffers from.
Recent studies have indicated that as many as 8-10% of the population suffers from RLS. But to ease our argument, let’s say that 3% of the population has RLS as you declare in this video. Three percent of the U.S. population is approximately nine million individuals.
Would you mock the symptoms of childhood asthma? According to the CDC, nine million children were diagnosed with asthma in the U.S. in 2004. Would you have ever made the statement: “While asthma is a real condition, only about 3% of children actually suffer from it.” Is Alzheimer’s serious enough to warrant medication? Actually, there are nearly two times as many individuals with RLS as there are those with Alzheimer’s – if we use three percent as the number of choice.
Three percent is actually the entire population of the state of Georgia (or the population of Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Montano, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming combined.)
Eight million children are born with birth defects each year, and the March of Dimes finds this to be a large enough number to warrant concern. This number is less than that of individuals who suffer from RLS, a debilitating sleep disorder.
Is that enough people to permit a drug to be developed to help them?
Aside from the disregard for the nine million people in the U.S. living with RLS, the entire video was filled with poor attempts at humor and entertainment—attempts that I and the members who jammed my email inbox this week, found insulting. Here are just a few examples of the sarcastic tone used:
* “Oooh a mystery. Sounds serious. The real mystery? What the heck is restless legs syndrome anyway?”
The sensorimotor disorder RLS was described as early as the late 17th century by the great English anatomist and physician Sir Thomas Willis, who also described the opioid responsiveness of the syndrome. In the 1940s, Swedish neurologist Karl Ekbom wrote a series of detailed clinical descriptions of the disorder and coined the term restless legs syndrome. The American Sleep Disorders Association developed diagnostic criteria for RLS in the late 1970s. And in July of this year, researchers discovered the first gene variant for RLS.
* “Aaah, note the use of impressive initials. RLS sounds official doesn’t it?”
The initials RLS has been used in conjunction with restless legs syndrome for years. In our search, the earliest we could find record was 1984. However, this is still more than 20 years before any medication was approved for treating RLS. Ms. Hirsh discusses a Mayo Clinic study later in the video. This Mayo Clinic study uses the term RLS. I don’t think it was so that they could sound “official.”
* Geeez, the side effects are starting to sound worse than the symptoms.
I am curious as to whether the person who wrote this script has ever struggled with sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the direct and indirect impact of daytime sleepiness and sleep disorders on the national economy is estimated to be about $100 billion annually. Even if it isn’t RLS keeping you awake, the inability to sleep has been linked to a myriad of health conditions including: psychiatric problems, stress, difficulty concentrating, depression, suicide, and more. Try not sleeping for one day, two days, or a week and see if possible side effects are worth the risk.
This is only a small sampling of the frustrations I felt while watching this piece.
Not only will I be cancelling my subscription, but the RLS Foundation plans to encourage all of its members to do the same both on our website, which receives more than 2,000 hits a day and in our quarterly patient publication and email list.
Talking badly about a drug is one thing. But talking badly about a disease is another. It is one thing to inform the population about a drug. It is another thing to make a mockery out of a disease that only 3% of the population suffers from.