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BBC Breakfast loses the news

March 28th, 2007

Dr Petra

The Intrinsa media coverage is still grumbling on and today made it’s way onto BBC Breakfast.

The two presenters were joined on their comfy red sofa to discuss the patch (described as ‘Viagra for women’) by a medical consultant and a pretty young woman. The consultant was there to explain about the patch. The young woman it turned out had sadly had to undergo a hysterectomy and oophorectomy (removal of ovaries), so had experienced early menopause.

Whilst the young woman clearly was a candidate for medical treatment, it is interesting the BBC selected her as a case study. After all, most women who Intrinsa is suitable for are in their fifties or older. One can only guess why such a young case study was used to illustrate a product designed for much older women.

The majority of the item was spent talking to the female consultant about the patch. She was asked ‘how long do you have to wear the patch for’ and replied that you wear the patch on your ‘abdomen or buttocks’, neatly sidestepping the question. The two presenters didn’t follow this up.

‘Were there any side-effects?’ she was asked. She explained there would be hardly any and anyway testosterone had been used for ages in treatments. The patch was like other hormone patches already used for HRT she announced, which seemed to pass for an explanation of safety – at least to the presenters who asked her no more about that issue.

What about the dangers of such a drug – could it be misused? The presenters wanted to know. The consultant primly replied ‘oh no, it’s a licensed product only available on prescription, so we hope it would never be misused’. ‘Thanks’ said the presenters and moved on to their next news item.

During the segment they had the opportunity to push again on the safety angle – what about the risks associated with the product? They could have questioned whether it really was the wonder drug we’ve been led to believe. And certainly they could have challenged the idea of prescription drugs being misused. Hello?! Have you never heard of Viagra on sale online? That’s supposed to be a prescription only product.

Middle aged, post-menopausal women are not our staple media favourites. They only appear as gossips, evil neighbours or the occasional glamorous grandma. Even on the BBC sofa this morning the male presenter was far, far older than his young female counterpart. So another question that could have been asked is why is the media so interested in a drug that’s really only suitable for a minority of women – and a group of women they normally couldn’t give a toss about?

As with all the other coverage on the patch no dissenting voices were included in the BBC Breakfast segment. Either because the producers didn’t bother to find out there’s a major health story for debate here, or because they didn’t care as this is just another sex story. And everyone knows that those aren’t to be taken too seriously – especially when they concern the health and well-being of older women.

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