The Rheumatoid Arthritis Commercial Saga

Rheumatoid Arthritis commercials make me sigh

Space shuttle Atlantis close upI have some pretty weird reactions to the Rheumatoid Arthritis commercials I see. My family is subjected to my peculiar breathing and strange facial expressions. One of my first blogs was about the “baloney” most of the Rheumatoid Arthritis commercials were serving up last year.

It’s kind of obvious “they” (pharmaceutical marketers) read our blogs. They even admit they do. Some Rheumatoid Arthritis commercials have made some progress. In some ways.

Why would a Rheumatoid Arthritis commercial show that?

So over the weekend, I was treated to the latest version of the Orencia commercial. And my family was treated to my sarcasm:

  • Why are they showing her pulling on socks? Anyone can put on socks.”
  •  “Why in the world would they focus the lens on her hands on a steering wheel?”
  • Using a pen? Why the hell would they show that?”

Why DOES the commercial show her doing those things? And why am I annoyed?

Because RA does affect those things. And because I have read thousands of comments and letters that make me cry. And many of them have a similar theme: “No one understands how RA affects me, even my doctor.”

Would a commercial show affects of Rheumatoid Arthritis that folks don’t grasp?


A little excerpt from a typical letter: “I was diagnosed 30 years ago and have been under three different specialists during this time. I am really struggling at the moment and unsure what to do next. I am in constant pain; every time I go to my Rheumatologist she says my bloods are good and I’m doing well. I try to explain to her that I am struggling badly on a day to day basis and she just doesn’t seem to listen.”

From what I can tell, it is common that doctors do not have a clear conception of how RA affects patients’ daily lives, just as I’ve written many times that they don’t seem to realize how much RA hurts. They don’t know, so they assume the problem is with us.

Recently, a blogger left this comment which was actually an excerpt and a link to her blog: “Of all the aspects to my life that RA has affected, I think the biggest blow was to my credibility.” She goes on to tell of eye rolls, man-handling, and accusations of being called overly sensitive to pain. This did not come from total strangers, but from her doctors. How does she cope? “Mostly it’s just, go painfully through life with little tolerance or understanding of the condition, and always feel stupid for such a minimal thing interfering with your life.”

I do the same. I know many of you do as well. We’ll keep coping. And continue having higher than average pain thresholds. And sighing loudly during Rheumatoid Arthritis commercials. But, we won’t stop there because we aren’t stupid and RA is not a minimal thing interfering with our lives.

Postblog: I’m not complaining about comments & letters that make me cry. To me, they are “fuel for the fire.”  At this point, I think I shall become a rocket!

Coming soon: Some doctors do get it – they’re trying to study functional status and RA. Soon, we’ll look at abstracts from ACR on functional aspects of RA.

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Kelly Young

Kelly Young is an advocate providing ways for patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. Through her writing, speaking, and use of social media, she is building a more accurate awareness of Rheumatoid disease aka Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creating ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and bringing recognition and visibility to the Rheumatoid patient journey. In 2009, Kelly created Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, a comprehensive website about RA of about 950 pages and writes periodically for other newsletters and websites. Kelly served on the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Advisory Board. There are over 42,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook Fan page. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is the mother of five, a home-schooler, Bible teacher, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She has lived over nine years with unrelenting Rheumatoid disease. See also

23 thoughts on “The Rheumatoid Arthritis Commercial Saga

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  • November 29, 2010 at 9:01 am

    What’s really frustrating with these commercials is it down plays RA. My husband watched one and said it looked like an ad for tylenol. It made RA look like a mild headache.

    It makes me wonder what people think that have just been diagnosed and don’t research their disease. I had only had one of the ‘super’ flares at that point and although I was experiencing pain I knew it could get a whole lot worse (which it did) and I had no problems with treatment. I worry that their are people out there that see these commercials and think that RA is no big deal and decide against starting dmards. They try natural ‘cures’ instead because the people on TV sure don’t look like they have joint damage when they rub their NORMAL looking hand, or STAND NORMALLY and look out a window.

    Why don’t the big pharmas use a little shock & awe? Show a real RAer with severe morning stiffness trying to move, show a real RAer’s hands with severe joint damage. I’m so sick of these actors that don’t have a clue pretending to have a little ache in their finger and portraying this as the face of RA. Argggggggggh!

  • November 29, 2010 at 9:08 am

    OMG, this is sooooo true. I don’t feel so alone now. Almost three years ago, I finally convinced my rheumatologist that something more than muscle pain was wrong with my neck. In addition to RA, I have OA of my spine and have required two fusions. This doctor, who is my new doctor in my new state, tells me he doesn’t think I have RA and takes me off all medication. What??? I had this diagnosis for 5 years beforehand. I felt betrayed. Two years later, unable to walk well, in great pain, several swollen finger joints and new ulnar drift of left hand/wrist, I ask him so do you think I have RA now? He puts me on a first line RA med. Another year later, still can’t walk, more swollen joints…Can we try a stronger biologic doctor? I was more assertive this time about it and he decides to give it a try, but says to me “I’ll be suprised if it helps” I said, “you’ll be surprised?” Uggghhhhhh, he tries to take the statement back. Do I have to have severe joint damage like you see in one of the new RA commercials in order to be listened to? I am never given a functional questionnaire to fill out. This is a newly educated rheumatologist. What are these new rheumatologists being taught in school? Very frustrating. Thank you for this blog. I get more support here.

    • November 30, 2010 at 8:23 am

      Hi Marianne. 🙂 I wonder that same question! I hope you have a good one now!

  • November 29, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I think they (pharmaceutical companies)show what they show b/c there is no other way to “show” pain; unless, of course, you have someone talking about it. I don’t have a problem with the commercials; in fact, I think they’re great. For one, they are educating the general public about the existence of this disease. I think we have to start with baby steps; you cannot expect the world to completely and totally understand the disease, without first getting them to accept it exists and what it is. Secondly, they are educating me about the existence of new drugs that I might not otherwise know about.

    • November 30, 2010 at 3:11 pm

      Sorry Marie, I have to disagree. I don’t have time for baby steps. I think the world needs to know the devastating effects of RA NOW! AND I think the world needs to know that RA kills! Nothing personal to you of course but I just needed to vent my feelings. I have severe RA throughout my entire body. No joint is free of the demon. It has already started to affect my heart and lungs. I was turned down for life insurance by 5 different companies because I have RA. We don’t have time for baby steps!
      Gentle Hugs,

    • December 1, 2010 at 1:24 pm

      I too, have RA, all over. It is unrelenting and treatment resistant. I have had two surgeries in five years to treat/fix the damage. I have a list of meds that have “failed” and another list that I am currently on. I am also uninsurable because of my pre-existing condition. I have been hospitalize and pumped full of narcotic anelgesics because that is all that could be done for my pain. My story is nothing new nor is it unfamiliar to anyone. To expect the world to understand everything about RA is unfair and unrealistic. No offense to you Trish. People just don’t work that way. People will not immediately accept or embrace something they cannot see or have not experienced. Like the saying goes, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.

  • November 29, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    These commercials just perpetuate the Un-Education we have to face daily. From our family, friends, and co-workers. Its a social and ethical injustice. I make it akin to watching CPR or codes on fictional TV. I roll my eyes on that one too as I work in an ICU as a respiratory therapist. I see daily families expect their loved one to get up after bone breaking chest compressions (CPR is actually violent not the pitty patty pushing that you see on tv) or that CPR and coding a family member will not leave them first alive and second without some kind of anoxic (oxygen deprived) injury. This is much like the disservice of rheumatoid commercials, ads and flippant page fillers in magazines. We are led to believe that take a pill or an injection and off you go like NOTHING has happened. I too sigh Kelly. Often too much. And when it hits home (my family expects me to be right as rain) I want to go ballistic … but alas, I am too fatigued!

  • November 30, 2010 at 5:51 am

    I actually had a broken elbow and shoulder socket once and thought it was the RA—was waiting for the other arm to “blow up” too——I had taken a very bad fall and wouldn’t go in to dr because I was sure it was the RA—-that the fall had caused it to flare up—-two weeks later my husband insisted on the e-ray that showed a break in the shoulder socket area. most people who have ever broken a bone can usually relate to this explanation if I offer it.

    • November 30, 2010 at 7:41 am

      Would you believe several people with RA have told me the same thing, Teresa? It still is stunning though.

  • November 30, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I wish they would just take the RA commercials off rather than make it look like all you have to do is take _________ (insert any RA med here) and next thing you’re good enough to be running on the beach. What a load of crap. If the makers of these commercials really cared about getting it right, they would sit down with any of us for a couple of hours. Any one of your video clips is far more informative and accurate than all of theirs combined.

  • December 1, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Commercials are quick to show what a “normal” life you can enjoy with their drug cocktail but what they don’t show is the pain behind doing all these wonderful activities. Sure I can type but it is not without pain, I drive but have braces on each wrist and some days cannot tolerate the pain of turning the wheel. AAHHH, if only they could walk in our shoes for just a day, I think they’d stop the lying and painting of rosey pictures. I am not bitter, just a realist, it is a disease that does interrupt life and no med in the world is going to change that. Please drug companies, get real.

  • December 1, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I can’t believe all the problems folks have finding doctors that understand. I have had two docs, both great, here in Houston. Only reason I had to shift from the 1st one was changesin insurance. Not understanding your pain? WOW! that doc needs to go into another line of work.

    Luckily my flares have been controlled by Remicade. Humira was working well until I lost insurance and couldn’t afford it. After a year of no drugs (other than the ‘roids some friendly docs mamanged to get for me) I was dying. It took about 6 months for Remicade toshow good signs of relief and another 2-3 years to really fix me to the point that I can ride my bike at least 20 miles. Not like the old days when I could ride 100 miler, but good enough to get some enjoyment.

    Wishing all of you some peace and pain free days for Christmas or whatever holday you celebrate!


  • December 2, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    It’s not just the RA medication commercials that bug me. What’s with the man and the woman sitting in the bath tubs on the erectile dysfunction commercials. All that is unrealistic – like you’re doing laundry and you’re suddenly overcome by a “moment.” I understand that there is regular world and “TV” world. Unfortunately I’m not sure how much others really understand that. And like all of you, I hate when I have to explain to someone that I have RA, and when I say “arthritis” they say “oh, yeah, my mom has that, or I got a touch of that in my knee.” Yeah, you have no idea how this has touched me.

    Keep up the good work Kelly.

  • April 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    So here’s a thought…what would it take to make a commercial featuring REAL RA patients telling their REAL stories?

  • April 18, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    I am on my way to diagnosis meaning my symptoms match more closely with RA now versus both RA and lupus. My hands are my worst problem and i wouldn’t be typing if it weren’t for the pred. I have a hard time holding the steering wheel. And I am worried because if symptoms got bad, I wouldn’t be able to drive or tie my own shoes or many other things. No idea about socks, but the point is we are all different.

  • April 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    I’m relatively new to RA, although it hit pretty severely. I was diagnosed just over a year ago, but with many symptoms years before that. I had to quit work last fall because of the RA and now have no income, no insurance and have been waiting 7 months to hear if I will get
    disability. I guess where I’m leading is the Martha Borst commercial for–I want to heave whatever is closest at the TV–it makes me so mad. Especially when she says “See these hands, that’s rheumatoid arthritis”. Maybe that’s her RA, but I know mine is much more involved than joint damage (as I’m sure many other’s is). The fatique, organ involvement, and methotrexate flu are just a few of the other problems no one seems to address. Anyway, keep up the good work Kelly–I enjoy your site and insights.

    • April 26, 2011 at 6:41 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement, Sue.
      And, I’ve met very few who like those commericials. Sometimes other people w/ RA have a hard time realizing that all RA is not the same as theirs & are the hardest to explain it to – I keep saying we need to begin our awareness w/ each other. By listening. And accepting.

  • January 31, 2012 at 11:59 am

    If I see Phil Mickleson on tv and saying ” I have this thing” I am afraid I will throw somethng at the tv. THING, yes we do have this thing and I see it being green and blue with 3 heads and 6 tongues!! Thing… Phooey!


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