Knowing Better... (Looking At You Amgen)

It isn’t very often that I get all up in arms about something. I always try to put myself into the other person or organization’s shoes – after all, you never know the complete circumstances that led up to whatever you’re salty about. There could be a perfectly logical explanation, like that person had a bad day, or was mistaken, or is just a real jerk – you never know.

Every once in a long while, though, there comes something that I simply can’t excuse and, like the pizza delivery guy who comes every Friday and absolutely refuses to say thank you after I give him his tip, it gets under my skin, and deep.

It all started with my morning ritual

This story beings with my morning ritual, something I look forward to each night I go to sleep. You might say it gets me up in the morning because it does – literally. I select a coffee from my coffee subscription service, grind it up fresh, brew that sweet nectar of the gods, and sit and watch a TV show or two while eating whatever is on hand. It’s my time, and heaven helps anyone who interrupts it – you are libel to get a napalm bomb of hot oatmeal to the face, and believe me, that stuff sticks.

Usually, I have something on my DVR from the night before but, if not, I simply go onto one of the streaming apps and pick something that looks good. It’s the second golden age of television, and I get on board that eyeball-melting train hard as not to be left behind at the water cooler. If I had a water cooler. Or an office to go to. Or that was even a thing any more. Ok, fine: go on Reddit and argue with people. You got me.

A commercial about RA caught my attention

Anyway, I was watching some show or other a few mornings ago and one of the ads on the “free” streaming app that never quite works right popped up in the middle of two characters talking. I was already salty about that, so I wasn’t in the mood for any shenanigans. You can imagine how it felt, then, when out of the corner of my ear, err, out of eyeshot...umm, only half paying attention I heard, “that was when I was a kid...long before I had rheumatoid arthritis...” Well, holy hell and hallelujah, that made me perk up and pay attention.

Reinforcing stereotypes about RA

What did I just hear? "Long before I had RA?" "When I was a kid?" Because kids don’t get RA in droves?? I waited to see what morons would make a commercial like that. Maybe a shoe manufacturer or a lawyer’s office? And then I saw it, and it’s a punchline that you won’t believe – the commercial was for Enbrel.

I couldn’t believe it. Enbrel, the first company to come out with a biological drug for RA, the company who made it so that millions of children with RA could live better lives, the people who pioneered the way and blazed the trail for immunomodifiers, put out a commercial that reinforced the stereotype that only old people get RA. I was floored.

Amgen, the company who makes Enbrel, not knowing that kids get RA too is like Baskin Robbins not knowing that ice cream is for than just milkshakes. Granted, at my local place, that’s a distinct possibility (how hard is it to tell the difference between vanilla and rocky road? One literally has road in it), but when your sole purpose is to know everything about the market your medicine is going into, what they did was inexcusable in my book. Also, it was a woman to boot, and I understand many more women have RA than men, but wouldn’t it have been nice to buck the system and show a teenage boy?

What were they thinking?

I immediately tried to get my phone out to take a clip of the commercial but, because of some backward way the ads in streaming services work, once you’ve watched them you can’t watch them again. Not like anyone, anywhere, at any time, would want to, but still. So I thought, “Ok, I’ll watch every episode of every bad show on this service until it plays again.” Yeah, well, I got about halfway through one episode of Reality Show Boors Fight Over Minutia or some such and realized I’d rather eat the remote and try to change the channel by punching myself in the stomach than view another minute.

I expected more from a trailblazing company

I remember the commercial exactly, though: a young redhead girl with her friends that suddenly cuts to an adult redhead who then voice-overs those words, “that was long before...”, etc. I expect this kind of behavior from medical TV shows who care more about drama between the doctors than being medically accurate, and so-called “daytime doctors” who proclaim the latest cure for RA is a special powder that a company they happen to own stock in sells for just $19.99. But Amgen? Shame on you. Double shame. Game of Thrones-style shame, shame, shame. If I had a bell, I’d ring it. Loud.

RA is continually misunderstood

It’s not like I don’t know exactly what happened – it’s the same story that repeats over and over when RA meets mass media. The people at the marketing company, and the people in the advertising department, and the people at the studio who actually filmed the commercial all know exactly squat about the real rheumatoid arthritis. And obviously no one bothered to tell them about the babies who can’t turn over in their cribs, or the nine-year-olds who have to watch their friends play little league and can’t join in. Here’s hoping they are able to continue to live in bliss, never knowing the pain that RA causes to children every day.

I hope that Amgen will see this. I hope it makes a difference, and above all, I hope it helps spread the word about the truth of RA. I haven’t gotten all riled up about something in a while, and this is certainly worth it. That is until Friday comes, pizza night. I mean, five bucks is still a good tip, right? Not even a nod in my general direction...not even an eyebrow? But, I’m not bitter... Talk soon.

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