Friday, April 06, 2007

Botox Banality Not a Boon for TV Sitcoms

Despite extolling the ability to "express yourself" while under the influence of Botox in recent TV "reminder ads" -- which, BTW, go against the self-imposed industry ban on such ads -- TV studios are finding it increasingly difficult to find women actors who can express themselves, according to Wall Street Journal article ("The Backlash to Botox").

Left, Janice Dickinson (Botox Banal) in scenes from her reality show, 'The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency'; right, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Botox Free) in 'The New Adventures of Old Christine.'

"The rarest commodity in TV these days, say veteran casting directors: stars without Restylane-frozen faces and collagen-inflated lips."

Botox Not Comical
"Successful sitcoms," notes the WSJ, "including 'Old Christine,' typically feature actors and actresses who use a heavy arsenal of facial expressions. Failed comedies -- for example, 'Hope & Faith,' 'Listen Up' and '20 Good Years' -- often feature performers that border on cardboard caricatures. 'Frozen isn't funny,' says [Joel Thurm, who served as Aaron Spelling's casting director]."

Also not comical are some of Botox's possible side effects and adverse events, including respiratory arrest, paralysis of swallowing muscles serious enough to require the insertion of a feeding tube, arrhythmia and myocardial infarction. Some cardiovascular events associated with Botox were "fatal" according to the BOTOX package insert.

Of course, none of these have to be mentioned in the "Express Yourself" Botox ads because FDA does not require it in reminder ads, which do not mention what the product is approved to treat. Obviously, Allergan, who makes and markets Botox, would prefer NOT to mention these bad things, hence it continues to run reminder ads despite the drug industry's self-imposed ban on such ads (see "Allergan Ignores Guidelines, Wins Award Anyway" and "PhRMA Intern vs. BOTOX!").

You also won't easily find these possible side effects and adverse reactions on the Botox web site, which merely states "Do not use BOTOX Cosmetic if you:

* have an infection where BOTOX Cosmetic will be injected
* are allergic to any of the ingredients in BOTOX Cosmetic
* are pregnant or think you might be pregnant."

It then states "Ask your doctor or pharmacist for the Professional Package Insert for complete information." And if you scroll way down to the bottom of the screen, you can click on "Prescribing information" and read the package insert. If you make it to page 2, you will find the nasty stuff.

The "Express Yourself" reminder ads are an obvious reaction to the well-documented lack of expression often associated with Botox. This "side effect" of Botox, which is not listed in the package insert as a side effect, is driving US TV studios to hire British actresses who are not so medicated. According to the WSJ, this contributes to the "increasing globalization of television casting."


  1. Anonymous1:58 PM

    I can appreciate overstatement for dramatic effect (as well as over-emoting for comedic effect); however, you overstated the degree to which side effects are not prominent at the Botox Cosmetic web site. On just about all pages, there is an "Important Safety Information" blurb that leads off with "Serious heart problems and serious allergic reactions have been reported rarely," and concludes with a link to the full PI. I'll confess that I work for an agency that is proud to list Allergan as a client, but even so, I don't think the side effect info is hard to find here.

  2. mario,

    Thanks for your comment. I stand corrected. There is "Important Safety Information" on each page and it includes statements about heart problems.

    It frankly escaped my notice because (1) it's at the bottom of the page and in small type -- the kind of text that most people would ignore; and (2) the first place I looked for safety information was under the "About Safety" tab in the menu bar at the TOP of the page. I think this is where most people would look and the Web site is surely designed to have that tab clicked if you are looking for safety information.

    What I quoted in my blog was the top lines of what I found on the saftey information page after clicking on the "About Safety" tab.

    Having the serious safety information in small type at the bottom of the page is akin to hurrying through the saftey information in a TV commercial. It is generally frowned upon as an effective means of risk communication. Sure, it satisfies FDA, but I think it is disingenuous, IMHO.

  3. Anonymous2:35 PM

    Your comments about Botox side effects while yes they are you really should do some more homework. Those side effects can occure and when they did it was in doses of about 300units. Also if you go by package inserts what drug would you ever take? There is not a drug on the market that does not have serious side effects, but I am curious to see what you take when you are sick. I think that you are attacking a product just to attack but you are not fact based at all. B

  4. O, give me a break! I suppose next you're going to say if It don't like Bush, I should go live in Russia or Iran!

    Of course, all drugs have side effects. Not all drugs, however, brazenly ignore industry guidelines for DTC. Why don't they run real ads instead of reminder ads?

    The real issue is that Allergan is trying to hide the side effects and adverse reactions or at least avoid talking about them. Name a drug you take that has the same disregard for risk commenucation as Botox!

  5. One other thing -- all the Rx medications I take are for SERIOUS medical conditions. The benefits far outweigh the risks, which haven't been hidden from me.

    Let's remember that Botox is a cosmetic drug that the world easily do without.


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