Recent Biologics Commercials by Amgen & Abbott Hit New Notes | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior

Recent Biologics Commercials by Amgen & Abbott Hit New Notes

Abbott’s commercials feature destruction of pianos and bicycles

Commercials for Biologics like Enbrel and Humira have come a long way in the last two years. Could our perspective be having an impact on marketers?

I don’t know. But the new Abbott ads are remarkable compared to the old baloney.

The new message: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can mean more than just pain.

As we watch a piano or a bicycle crumble to pieces, we hear, “As you know, RA means pain. But you may not know it can also mean destruction—not just of your joints, but of the things you love to do. The longer you live with the aching, stiffness, and swelling, the closer you may be to having your favorite things taken away. To help you talk with your doctor about the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis—and joint destruction, sign up for your free Personal Joint Profile.”

No, it doesn’t make me want to go to their site. But that’s only because I know where the best RA info is. Wink. I’ll be surprised if these Abbott ads aren’t very effective.

New Amgen Enbrel ad featuring Phil Mickelson

Screenshot of Phil Mickelson's Enbrel commercial

Phil jogs off telling us he can, “Get back to the things that matter most.” Sounds a lot like the old promise to “get your life back.” I’m sure no one meant to imply that our friends in wheelchairs are missing the things that matter most.


Phil Mickelson Enbrel adThe Enbrel message was even sunnier than that of Punxsutawney’s Phil. Phil Mickelson seemed to predict a rosy future for those with inflammatory arthritis diseases. As Katie Beth said when we saw the ad this week, “Momma, it’s a commercial for a product. It makes it sound good.” Where’d she learn to talk like that?

Phil didn’t do so well at the Master’s, but his Enbrel commercial got a lot of attention during the Tournament.

comment on Phil Mickelson articleLast year, people were offended that Phil Mickelson sounded like Psoriatic Arthritis is not a very serious diagnosis. I checked out some press and we discussed Phil’s announcements of his Psoriatic Arthritis diagnosis. Then, later, in Arthritis Today, Phil’s portrayal of Psoriatic Arthritis sounded much different: He was sick and needed medicine. That was after he signed on with Enbrel. Pictured here is the comment I made in February under the article.

Some said how glad they are that Phil is now discussing publicly that he has Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA). That’s fine, as long as they understand that this is a commercial for Enbrel.

For a more realistic message, click here to watch my Walking a Big Dog RA Commercial, sponsored by Me.

Recommended reading

Kelly O'Neill

Kelly O'Neill (formerly Kelly Young) has worked about 12 years as an advocate helping patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the author of the best-selling book Rheumatoid Arthritis Unmasked: 10 Dangers of Rheumatoid Disease. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Through her writing and speaking, she builds a more accurate awareness of rheumatoid disease (RD) aka rheumatoid arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creates ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and brings recognition and visibility to the RA patient journey. In addition to RA Warrior, she writes periodically for newsletters, magazines, and websites. There are over 60,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook page. You can also connect with Kelly on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is a mother of five, longtime home-schooler, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. She has lived over fourteen years with unrelenting RD. See also https:/

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21 thoughts on “Recent Biologics Commercials by Amgen & Abbott Hit New Notes

  • April 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Kelly- this is so so relevant. I have noticed the “new” commercials. In the beginning I was hit so hard and fast by RA that I was bedridden and had to rely on my son and husband to help me eat, dress, walk, etc. It took forever it seemed to be approved for Enbrel. I have to admit that between the Enbrel, prednisone, methylprednisolone, sulphasalazine, methotrexated and assorted other drugs including heavy duty narcotics- I eventually was able to return to moderate activity.
    Having said that- as one must always attempt to be fair- I have since had 6 years of Enbrel and Orencia- am continually fighting with Medicare and as of today am now once again 2 months with no biologic treatment-Luckily this past year I haven’t had to make any ER visits- although based on this weeks flares- I may be forced to. Today both my wrists are useless and have huge red lumps, my right foot feels as if the three middle toes are broken- I am hobbling and have resorted to putting on my cushy boots, all 6 of my hand and wrist braces are being used- and it looks like I am going to have to resort to medrol- I hate medrol….oh did I tell you my neck is throbbing, I’ve had this headache to the eyeball and two days ago my jaw started aching and is stuck….It hurts to eat….
    Sorry to get off topic here- but I have a big dog that needs walking- I actually said last nite to my husband- “I’m going to take Rocky down to the lake to swim” Now what was I thinking? That a miracle was going to occur?? That this was just temporary??? I tell myself if I just get that Orencia it will be better….but reality is that even with the Orencia I have had the neck and jaw problems for the past 5 months and wrist problems for over a year.
    Yes I suppose the Orencia helps- but not as much as it did in the beginning. Will I try another biologic? I don’t know that I will refuse it- because who knows it might work/help??
    But the commercials- well they are a bit rosy-The one that scares me is the one with the lady whose hands are disfigured and she is encouraging us to not settle for living with RA- How long will it be until my hands are like that? Who am I kidding- they almost look like hers today…
    I hate RA, I hate PA – I continue to tell myself, it could be worse. Buck up Brenda- hobble today, be happy in a week…oh please please would the meds just kick in.

    • April 14, 2011 at 10:17 pm

      Brenda, It sounds like you are having a migraine, when you say “headache to the eyeball.” When I have one, the pain is behind my eye on one side and it radiates pain to my neck and jaw.

  • April 14, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Kelly, I get so frustrated with these advertisements, making it appear that we can be “normal” again if we just take their product. I have tried 2 different biologic medications and neither worked for me. I am sure that they’ve worked for some and I am grateful for that, but I always keep in mind that I have RA and I will more than likely always have RA (unless I had a miraculous or medically induced remission), it’s just the approach of trying to minimize the pain, stop any future damage and try to control it. It’s sort of like when you see a commercial for a burger and it looks like the best burger you’ve ever seen and when you actually go get one your burger is burnt and lettuce is limp, tomatoes brown and the bun hard. It’s just advertising. Do they advertise medications in other countries or is it just US?

    • April 14, 2011 at 10:02 pm

      LOL Dawn, I love your burger analogy!

    • April 15, 2011 at 10:48 am

      I read a book recently called “Our Daily Meds”, great but scary book, and it said that only the US and one other developed country (I believe it was New Zealand) allowed prescription drug advertising to the public.

  • April 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Last Sunday was the first time I saw the new commercials with the piano and bike. I was so excited that I hit the record button to show my family later! It sure does hit a chord, having things you love taken away, such as my days of heavy duty gardening. Now I cannot kneel or use my shoulders to do the hard work I once did. I save my shoulder “spoons” for my new grand daughter.
    I have not seen the Phil ads, and the link didn’t work for me. Maybe that is good, so I don’t raise my stress level getting angry at them!
    Great blog Kelly!

    • April 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm

      Just tested it & it worked ok. Maybe you can copy/paste the link into an address bar to see if that helps. When you get to the Enbrel page, you still have to click on Phil to play his ad. The ad is not bad – it’s just a commercial – making things sound rosy for those who take Enbrel. …Aside from that “doing what matters most” comment…

  • April 15, 2011 at 4:49 am

    Hey, I tried it again, and then again and it finally worked. Must be my lappy being bad, just like my RA most times. First try’s I just got a blank screen, saying it was done! Well, I’m glad Enbrel worked for Phil! I got the blank screen with my Enbrel trial, just like trying to see the ad, maybe I need to try it over and over again? Naw, I tried it for 8 months. What will Phil say if it stops working? Will he lie and just keep cashing the paychecks till he can’t stand the pain and can’t swing a club? I have a friend that has PSA and Enbrel has been working great for him for a few years now, He doesn’t take methotrexate, pain pills or anything else. Maybe PSA is easier to control than RA??
    I’m really glad I looked at your link “Commercials for Biologics like Enbrel and Humira” –
    I don’t remember reading this post, but that was a month before I was diagnosed and when I first found your blog in August or Sept 09?, I read so much I don’t remember it all. Really got a kick out of this post! Baloney is my first name, it’s Oscar…Thanks again Miss RA warrior Kelly!

    • April 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm

      Thanks, Ronda. That would sure be a predicament for Phil. I’ve heard from several others whose Ps or PsA was easily controlled by Enbrel. It almost seems kind of made for it; maybe it is, genetically speaking that is. Just guessing.

  • April 15, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Brenda and Ronda,
    I just met a man with RA and PSA (psoriatic arthritis). Happenstance and is the first man I’ve met with either. I also met my first AS (ankylosing spondylitis) patient the other day also by happenstance. They notice my splints and ask about them and that’s how the subject comes up. Anyway, the gentleman I met said he was hit very suddenly around 1999. He did not like or do well with prednisone apparently (but didn’t say why/how). But he did start Enbrel 10 years ago. Says that is the only medication he’s taken for the last ten years and has done well with it. Takes Aleve or other over the counter NSAIDs when he gets a flare in his neck or such. I was pleased to hear from someone who has done so well- much less just being on only one single medication! And he’s had no real problems with infections apparently. I am guessing that’s because he doesn’t take any other DMARDs or Prednisone with his Enbrel. But I’m guessing he’s been one of the lucky to not have started producing antibodies against it and that’s probably why it’s done so well for him all this time. Perhaps Enbrel does work better for PSA than RA, or at least for those PSA’ers who don’t have a lot of widespread psoriasis anyway.

    He did mention that he was hospitalized for some intestinal issue a few years ago and the incision got inflammed after, and ever since then he has had this light pink small rash all over though.

  • April 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Not that it helps you now Brenda, but some are still trying to push to get generics allowed for biologics. Wishing you luck to get your Orencia soon!

  • April 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    I’ve only seen the piano commercials, and they touch something, ’cause they make me profoundly sad. Maybe it’s the stubbornly trying to play on a keyboard that just keeps crumbling away thing. But my husband saw that one too, over the weekend a few weeks ago, and he’s been a million times more understanding than he had been, so maybe it can help shake people out of thinking that RA is just having sore joints.

    I was super lucky when I started taking Enbrel and felt just like my old self again, I had energy and could bounce around like I used to. It felt like a miracle (and was pretty fast too, within a few days). 9 months later, it does nothing for me. It gave me hope though, which helps get through the sore days, the tired days, and the endless needles.

    • April 15, 2011 at 9:36 pm

      I’m glad to hear about your husband. 🙂 I’m sorry the Enbrel quit working – I hope there’s something else for you.

  • April 16, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    I agree the new commercials with the piano crumbling and the bicycle crumbling are finally getting on point. Yes we still have a ways to go, but thank goodness they got rid of those riduculous ones where they went to the beach or dinner and dancing.
    Come on realistically when was the last time you went out dancing? Or even felt like it for that matter?

  • April 28, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Very interesting conversation. I found this site because I just saw the Abbott piano commercial tonight, and found it so disturbing and, as Denise D. so aptly put it, profoundly sad.

    I am a 35-year-old who’s had Psoriatic Arthritis for about three years, taking Humira since Jan 2009 with regularly decreasing effectiveness, and thus increasing pain and frustration.

    I was very upset by the piano commercial. All it did was depress me, remind me that not only is it bad now, it’s going to get worse, especially if you’re younger (like me). It struck me as scare tactics … followed by a sudden, swift turn to smiles, happy music, good times when you start taking the drugs! That’s not realistic or fair.

    So … being new to the whole topic of how these diseases and drugs are portrayed in commercials, I’m surprised that there’s mainly a vibe here that these Abbott ads are a move in the right direction. I’m curious what you all think a commercial SHOULD look like? I guess I see Sheila’s point that at least they aren’t showing people running around or dancing.

    I don’t know exactly what these ads should look/feel like, but I know that I did not at all like the way this one made me feel. I don’t need to be reminded to be scared of what the future holds — I already am!

    Thanks for putting this site together, Kelly. I’ve just started poking around but I like the vibe. Wish there was something like this for PsA. I’ve been looking around for a good PsA community site and so far haven’t found one that fits my vibe (two public and one private have left me feeling more depressed). This is a very isolating experience. I’ve yet to connect with anyone in person and almost no one online either with PsA, certainly not near my age. And it’s extremely difficult for anyone who doesn’t have PsA or RA to understand what I’m going through — it seems very marginalized or misunderstood by others. I feel very alone.

    Wow, that was a long post, and quite a downer! I’m actually not usually like this. I have a healthy dose of sometimes dark humor and try not to be too serious and really try not to dwell on my PsA. That commercial just really got to me.

    Wishing you all the best with your health.

    • April 29, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      Hi Erin,
      Yes, compared to some of the Humira ads from 2 yrs ago, it is a big improvement. Most of the ads still make me angry, so “depressing” is an improvment of sorts. What they’ve all done in the past is minimize RA and make us look silly – the woman at the piano looked “smart” enough to go online and then they implied that patients are “smart” enough to have a discussion with their doctors – that was also good.
      There are some campaigns about dancing,etc and what I always call the “walking a big dog” campaigns. These do a great diservice to us since there has never been an accurate depiction of us or even a positive one. Even though I appreciate the new ad, I think we could do even better for awareness of course. But like Katie Beth and I both said about Phil’s ads: they are still commercials – and trying to sell a product. So they don’t mention how many of us get no benefit or how many get only a slight benefit or those like you who get a decreasing benefit…

      As someone with PsA, how do you feel about the ups & downs of Phil Mickelson’s campaign over the last yr? We have lots of friends with PsA & you’re welcome any time. 🙂

  • May 3, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    i Kelly,

    Thanks for the response. Notification went into my spam folder — that’s fixed now 🙂

    I totally understand what you mean by the tone of the commercials making it seem like you just have to be smart enough to see a doctor and take medicine, then everything will be fine (thus the change to happy music after the piano has fallen apart!). Hell, I must be a genius, given how often I see doctors and take medication! 😉

    I feel like the reality is the complete opposite. As others have said, it’s almost a hallmark of the disease (either RA or PsA) that treatment either doesn’t work or stops working over time. I feel like that’s the biggest issue that needs to be addressed.

    Re: Phil, the plus: He is such an extremely well-respected individual that I think in that sense he’s a GREAT face to have for the disease. I think that people will listen and have a better understanding of how extreme the symptoms can be by his discussion of when he was first showing symptoms. And just having the disease and speaking about it at all brings more awareness than there was before (which was next to nothing).

    The not so great: The focus of his “awareness campaign” seems to be very similar to the message in the commercials — Get to a doctor, and start taking medication as soon as possible. This IS an important message (my life with PsA before and after medication was like night and day, and it IS important to treat and not let it sit, get worse, and do irreversible damage — as I have in one toe), so it’s not all bad.

    The Bad: However, the bottom line is that it’s a paid ad for a drug. Period. Some of the articles/discussion/promotion of makes it sound like it’s more than that, but I was sad to discover that it’s not. The web site is a one-page ad for Enbrel. There isn’t even any opportunity for people to interact with either Phil or each other on the web site. Major disappointment, missed opportunity.

    Do you know if his involvement with Enbrel means that he can’t speak at all about any other treatment options?

    What would have been best overall would have been to be a spokesman for the National Psoriasis Foundation. That way we could have had his help to address any and all of the problems associated with PsA: 1) Why the medications are ineffective for some and wear off for others. 2) How about the cost of the biologics ($20k a year for my Humira, which has caused problems for me getting a health insurance provider to agree to it). 3) The mental/emotional toll of the disease. 4) The potential disability factor? 5) Alternative treatments options. 6) Money for research for better treatment and hopefully a cure! Just the first things that popped into my head. 🙂

  • May 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Is antibiotic protocol a viable treatment option for arthritis?

  • June 27, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I have been on plaquenil, methotrexate, humira. I think the worst thing about these rosy commercials is that it makes us look like we are failing. Rheumatoid Arthritis? You are doing it wrong. But this isn’t an icanhazcheezburger kind of joke. And worse, it can lead people who don’t know much about the disease to think we are doing it wrong. Sigh. Where are the commercials talking about the fatigue? I almost feel like this is worse than the pain, often. Where are the commercials talking about how long term pain and fatigue lead to depression which basically can cause a cascade failure in, well, everything? Why is it so hard for people to just be real? I really have a disease that has changed my life and I can not proceed with my former lifestyle and I will most likely die relatively young. I can’t lift the heavy pans anymore to wash them. I can’t get out the ironing board anymore. I can’t just pick up and go. Where’s the commercials for that?! Rant over. Temporarily. 😉

  • June 27, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    I did have to chuckle a couple weeks ago When Phil had to drop out of a golf tournament due to exhaustion….he has it one day and it’s headlines…we live with it every day, and nobody broadcasts it for us.

  • July 21, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    The commercials for the biologic drugs quite frankly piss me off. They are so sugar coated no wonder people don’t understand the severity of RA or PSA. The commercials for depression or OsteoArthritis are more accurate than any of the biological medicine commercials for RA or PSA. Yes these meds may help but they are not a cure, for many they quit working, you still have many bad days with pain, inflammation and fatigue not to mention you can DIE from serious infections from being on these biological drugs. The sugar coating of the disease makes me very angry. Just because it isn’t appealing to hear all the bad facts or to see deformities caused from these diseases doesn’t mean you have to basically lie about the disease in the commercials!!


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