11 May 2011

Whether to admire the mere sensation

I ignore television ads because they aren't worth my ire. Lately, however, I've been assaulted by ads featuring people being angsty about their psoriasis. 'Does he know it's not contagious?' 'Will they remember me as a mentor or the teacher with red flaky patches?'

Frankly, I want to throw the TV out the window when these ads come on. The young woman on the date and the young man at the barber are irritating enough, but the gym teacher really infuriates me.

You see, I have psoriasis, and I was a teacher. I always considered it a 'teachable moment' -- meaning it was a chance to introduce my students to something they might not have encountered before. Even though I'm not in the classroom anymore, I still try to handle questions about my skin as teachable moments. 'I have psoriasis. It's an autoimmune disease ...'.

It's a funny thing, but I find people tend to understand that it's not contagious (the fear of everyone in the ads) when I tell them that. As I was writing this, the teacher one aired again, and I noticed that far from thinking of it as a teachable moment, she talked about how 'after all these years' you'd think she'd have learned to hide her psoriasis. Not to live with it, not to come to terms with it, but to hide it. Grrr!

Yes, I understand that talking about your disfiguring skin condition isn't something that comes easily. I had to work up to it too; I too went through a long-sleeves-in-summer phase. (And then I moved back to the U.S. and decided that I couldn't possibly endure summers here in the beautiful capital in long sleeves). If the ads point people to something that helps them get to that place, that's a good thing, surely. But does it?

The website advertised, Psoriasisspeaks.com, is sponsored by Abbott, a 'global broad-based health care company.' They are the makers of Ensure, Glucerna, Similac infant formula, a variety of diabetes testing tools and supplies, and some diagnostic equipment. They also sell the drug Humira, which is used to to treat the autoimmune diseases rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease.

Funnily enough, psoriasis is also an autoimmune disease. Why do I suddenly suspect that Abbott isn't sponsoring a psoriasis website out of a purely altruistic desire to help people learn to talk about their condition and live their lives with greater confidence and comfort?

Humira is a tumour necrosis factors (TNF) blocker, as are Remicade and Enbrel, which have been used to treat rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis. TNF blockers have also been associated with hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma. The risk may not be high, but somehow I think I prefer non-pharmaceutical approaches.

(Even scarier was the Raptiva recall. Raptiva was aggressively marketed as a wonder treatment for psoriasis and ... well, look up the recall).

If you have psoriasis, or are curious about it, I'd suggest the National Psoriasis Foundation as a port of call instead. There's even a short piece on the history of psoriasis in the current issue of their quarterly. My textile historian friends will be amused to know that apparently, psoriasis has been found in Egyptian tombs.

Roddy Lumsden

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...