Ads and AMD Awareness

"What’s THAT for?" my husband asked. He was looking at an ad on the television. Bright, happy people were biking along a beach. The unpronounceable name of a drug was at the bottom of the screen.

"You’ll have to go to the Internet to find out," I mumbled as I looked up from my book. "Think it is a law that that they can’t tell you."

"Nobody looks sick," he grumbled. "The only thing they tell you are the awful effects they speed through. Who would take it if all that stuff could happen to them?"

Up popped another one — Madonna playing the piano. "That one's for a migraine drug," I said.

Not 10 minutes later, I actually saw one for a new drug for macular degeneration.

"Wow," I told him. "Had read about it and now it is on the market. Not much information, but what can you expect in 20 or 30 seconds?" Back to my book.

Advertisement and outreach campaigns

Drug manufacturers have been allowed to advertise prescription drugs directly to consumers for almost 30 years.1

This is the first time I’ve seen one that applied to me.

Several new injectable drugs were approved for the treatment of AMD last year, and some manufacturers made sure we knew about it. There were TV ads, stuff on social media, and ads in magazines.

One campaign combined advertisement with outreach to people like me through social media (Facebook, in my case). I gave them my contact information, and so far I’ve received a pocket journal to help me navigate my vision journey, a lighted magnifier, and emails with health tips. This is more information than I have ever received from either of my two retina specialists.

Drug advertisements throughout the decades

Of course, the purpose of all that is for me to "ask my doctor if it is right for me." How many times have we heard that phrase?

And I did. He has switched to a new drug for many of his patients. I don’t believe he did it solely because of the ads. He likely considered the science behind the product and then acted.

Watching those adverts, I flash back to my growing-up years in the 1950s. Good times? Yes, for some. Who can argue with Hopalong Cassidy, Milton Berle, and the Dodgers being in Brooklyn?

The science of macular degeneration was in its infancy. There were no vaccines for polio, measles, mumps, or whooping cough. People only talked in a whisper about some diseases — including breast cancer — that are now chatted about over the dinner table. Then, in 1974, along came Betty Ford, the president’s wife. She spoke openly about her diagnosis and her treatment. There were breast cancer walks and lots of pink ribbons.

Former Senator Bob Dole’s advertisements for Viagra did the same thing for erectile dysfunction. Believe me, those words were never uttered by anyone in the 1950s, even in the most hushed of tones. "He said WHAT?" I can hear my mother gulping. "No... really?"

Few people know about AMD until diagnosis

Advertisements and public relations campaigns have made people aware of diseases, conditions, and treatments affecting millions of people. The age of the "baby boomer" means that there are a lot of us with age-related macular degeneration; over 12 percent of people over the age of 40, according to the Centers for Disease Control.2

And yet, few people know about AMD until they get the diagnosis. I got regular eye exams, but no one ever mentioned either macular degeneration or the Amsler grid, the best tool for checking your vision at home.

Raising awareness about our AMD

Maybe campaigns for these new drugs will encourage someone to ask their eye care professional about AMD. Maybe they will be handed an Amsler grid. It is time for a celebrity spokesperson for AMD, a famous person who deals with the reality of the condition. The United Kingdom has Dame Judi Dench. What celebrity will be willing to admit that they have an age-related condition?

For the time being, it is up to each of us to talk about our AMD, to let people know why we can’t drive at night or need a flashlight to read the menu or use large print books. We need to channel our inner Betty Ford (or Bob Dole) to raise awareness about the importance of early diagnosis and sticking with our treatment, a healthy way of life, and a positive attitude.

A friend is turning 60. Maybe I’ll slip an Amsler grid in with instructions into her birthday card.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.