THE BLOG

Goodbye to You, Yaz

03/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Doug Bremner Physician, professor, researcher, writer, and filmmaker

Bayer recently announced that it is going to spend $20 million for an advertising campaign to reverse the effects of its ad campaign promoting the oral birth control pill, Yaz, as effective for the ups and downs of daily life as well as zits and other skin blemishes and weight loss. This ad campaign was launched after Yaz was approved for birth control with added side benefits of helping premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PDD) and acne, however the ads showed women kicking around balloons that said stuff like "mood swings" and "fatigue" while they played the songs "Good bye to You" or "We're Not Going to Take It."

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Goodbye to you too, Yaz

Following this they got admonished by the FDA which led to the unusual settlement of being forced to run an ad campaign out to undo the effects of false advertising. You see, Yaz wasn't approved to treat PMDD and acne, and in any case not all women have PMDD or untreated acne, even though the makers of Yaz certainly wish that that was the case. It was also promoted as helping with weight loss, although the weight you lose is just water, and it does that promoting retention of potassium, which can cause heart problems.

In other words they were promoting it as a lifestyle drug, like look good, get laid, and feel good about yourself. What more could women want? Anyhoo, in the new ads an actress looks into the camera and says:

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You may have seen some Yaz commercials recently that were not clear. The F.D.A. wants us to correct a few points in those ads.

Indeed. Well first of all, I really hate it when they take a perfectly good song and associate with some cheesy product. They should make musicians sign a contract that they will never sell out their tunes which run around in our heads.

Second, that $20 million is "chump change" as one commenter pointed out, after they have already made their billions promoting a product for something that it wasn't approved for, something that can be thought of as the cost of doing business, kind of like the billion that Eli Lilly paying as punishment for off label promotion of Zyprexa not being a big deal when they made 20 billion out of the deal. Finally, no one pointed out the fact that Yaz (and her sister pill Yasmin) (as I have written about before in "Is Your Birth Control Pill Driving You Bananas") is the most posted about medication on medications.com, with most of the women complaining about how it makes them more depressed and anxious.

How can it be that your birth control pill makes you depressed?
Birth control pills (or oral contraceptive pills, or OCPs) contain sex hormones related to estrogen and progesterone. Normally these sex hormones cycle throughout the month. In addition to controlling reproduction they also have effects on the brain, which is why they can cause anxiety and depression.

Taking the pill effectively blunts the normal variation in hormones; it also eliminates ovulation, which also affects sexuality. In fact, one study showed that strippers who were ovulating made $15 more per hour than strippers who were not ovulating, and that strippers on the pill made significantly less than other strippers.

You can read more about the relative risks of heart disease and cancer in women of different ages and smoking status in my prior post on this topic or my book. However, I recommend using an IUD as the safest form of birth control, condoms or a diaphragm.

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