Three disgusted-looking folks with their hand facing and blocking out a tv in a dismissive manner.

Frustrated with Rheumatoid Arthritis Advertising!!

Last updated: October 2022

I remember the first time I noticed an advertisement about rheumatoid arthritis medications. The patients were smiling and doing everything they wanted! I thought I had failed when my medications only allowed me to work part-time.

5 drugs later, I finally found one that allowed me to work full-time in a position that was not as physically challenging. It was miraculous, but I was not rock-climbing!! Not that I ever did before RA, but I couldn’t do the things I used to do. I still spend most evenings with my feet up reading a book.

Frustrated with RA commercials

Have you seen the most recent one? The one where the “supposed” rheumatoid arthritis patient is hauling up heavy metal lobster and crab cages onto a fishing boat? First, I laughed, and then I got angry. How dare they build up our expectations for a “normal” life!! Some days just keyboarding is rough. Other days, getting out of bed is a triumph.

Why is the advertising so unrealistic?

I believe there are several factors here.

Money (of course!)

You already know that developing new medications is costly, and that cost is passed on to the consumer. If advertising promises good, the developers and advertisers make more money.

Education, or lack thereof

Another factor is a lack of education and the desire to learn. Rheumatoid arthritis medications seek to reduce symptoms and prevent joint damage. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. DMARDs (Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatoid Drugs) prevent joint damage. I remember my grandmother’s severe deformities from RA before DMARDs were available. I am grateful to have the medications now available. However, they are not magic bullets that will solve everything.

Lack of a frame of reference

We frequently discuss that others do not understand how rheumatoid arthritis affects us. There is no common frame of reference. We use terms like "RA hangover" (thanks, Monica!) and "RA flu" 24/7. Accepting that advertisers, and people in general, do not have a clue what rheumatoid arthritis is or how it affects the body is tough to do.

Attempting to change the dynamic

I have called drug companies to inform them about misleading advertising. My current medication is the one that has the lobster fisherman advertisement. My efforts have not yielded much success. (Surprise, surprise!)

I'm sure no one is surprised that “truth in advertising” is a misnomer! Somehow this feels more personal.

It makes us doubt ourselves when the medication does not “make us leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

What can we do about it?

How do we accept this? Do we laugh, cry, or angrily call the company? Most of the time, we compare ourselves to the happy and strong people in the advertisement. Instead, we need to compare ourselves to ourselves. Do I feel better than I did yesterday? Will I be able to do a load of laundry today without spending tomorrow in bed? If yes, then that is a win.

Please only compare yourself to yourself!! I frequently remind myself that I was on disability for 4 months before I started medications. Now I work full-time in a ministry with reduced physical requirements. I consider this a win. I also consider it a win when I can make it to the bathroom and back to bed on a bad day.

Give yourself some grace and laugh at the stupid commercials!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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