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Remember that snooty shop assistant in Pretty Woman?

December 5th, 2004

Dr Petra

I’m talking about the scene where Vivian (Julia Roberts) goes into a Rodeo Drive store to buy some nice frocks so she can blend in with Ed’s (Richard Gere) posh friends. Because she looks a bit suspect, the store assistant won’t help her, and eventually humiliates her by refusing to take her money. Luckily Vivian is helped out by the kindly concierge in her hotel, and is kitted out in suitable clothing to keep Ed happy.

A few days later, having sorted out grooming and wardrobe, Vivian finds herself outside the same store that previously dismissed her. She enters, and finds the rude assistant, who of course doesn’t recognise her, and starts sucking up, thinking she’s a rich customer. Vivian explains that by thinking she knew better, the assistant lost a big sale.

Journalists risk making the same mistake. Posing as somewhat snooty Rodeo Drive store assistants, they size up those making contact with them, admitting the well heeled, and turning away those who seem like Vivian the hooker before her makeover.

Like last week. There was a great story to be had about how Procter and Gamble were trying to get FDA approval for their new ‘Intrinsa’ patch for post-menopausal women who lacked sexual desire. The company have been showering the media with glowing press releases about this ‘miracle’ drug. And the media have unquestioningly run the story, hailing the new ‘Viagra for women’.

Only I knew different. I knew the science behind it was unclear; there were questions about what side effects it could cause. And the FDA hadn’t yet said ‘yes’.

I approached a number of national UK newspapers explaining this, and telling how a group of academics, medics and scientists were going to present their concerns to the FDA on Friday (for more information visit FSD Alert

I was told over and over ‘that’s not really a story’, ‘this isn’t news’, ‘oh we’ve already run the story about the patch’. The store assistant sized up the customer and kicked them out of their store – after all their prestigious clients had already been given plenty of good service.

Yesterday the FDA turned down Procter and Gamble’s application to manufacture the Intrinsa patch, due to concerns raised by experts about the effect it could have on women’s health. All of the journalists could have had their finger on the pulse.

Not a story? Not news?

As Vivian says as she exits the Rodeo Drive store for the second time.

‘Big mistake. Huge’.

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