Janssen Leans on Olympians and Athletes to Push Xarelto

Janssen Leans on Olympians and Athletes to Push Xarelto

The latest ad spot for Xarelto has all the hallmarks of a direct-to-consumer drug advertisement: cheery music, a story of redemption, and a mile-long list of side-effects rattled off as quickly as possible.

This time, however, Xarelto’s manufacturer Bayer and its marketing team at Janssen have lured in an Olympian and an athlete to distract from the drug’s dark side.

Swimmer Katie Hoff and Nascar driver Brian Vickers are the celebrities presented as poster children for the drug. The briefly foreboding opening quickly switches to sunshine and recovery once Xarelto is introduced, of course. The Olympian and the athlete overcome their “most challenging opponent” with this unique savior.

Listen carefully, however, and you’ll notice that half of the commercial’s audio is spent listing out no fewer than sixteen caveats. Unfortunately the presentation and visual content minimizes the importance of these serious health concerns. 

katie hoff swimming

Xarelto Is “Selective”

One of the darkly ironic moments of the commercial comes when right before the 30 seconds of side effects. Janssen attempts to position its drug ahead of its competitors because Xarelto is “selective” as it inhibits blood clots.

The same claim could be aimed at the drug’s marketers, who gloss over the fact that Xarelto performed worse than other blood thinners in a recent study.

That research from the renowned Mayo Clinic found the drug more likely to cause gastrointestinal bleeding than its direct competitors. Selective indeed.

No-one expects pharmaceutical marketing to present its product in a negative light. What should come under closer scrutiny is the practice of direct-to-consumer drug advertising, which prominent media outlets are now questioning and critics have long decried. Even with the mandatory list of side-effects, pharma companies are able to sufficiently distract with hopeful music, bright visuals, and selective scientific claims.

Allowing celebrities to lend credibility to these claims by appearing in drug ads only serves to increase this obfuscation. The fact that they leverage health icons like athletes and Olympians only makes this worse. 

In broad terms, consumers must take final responsibility for their health decisions. However, patients with specific conditions can be desperate to find relief. Drug advertisements present them with a very skewed version of potential cures. The manufacturers know this and exploit it as much as they can.

If you have concerns about a drug you’ve taken – or a medical device you’ve used – make sure you talk to a medical professional immediately.

Always ask questions about medications you consider taking and don’t hesitate to seek legal advice if you experience unexpected negative impacts on your health.


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