BBB National Programs Archive
NAD RECOMMENDS COMBE MODIFY, DISCONTINUE CERTAIN CLAIMS FOR ‘VAGISIL SCREENING KIT’ FOLLOWING J&J CHALLENGE
New York, NY – Jan. 19, 2012 -The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended Combe Incorporated modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for the company’s Vagisil Screening Kit and more clearly disclose the kit’s limitations.
Claims made by the advertiser in print, internet, radio and television advertising were challenged before NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, by Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products, Inc,, which makes Monistat, a treatment cream for vaginal yeast infections.
The challenged claims include:
- “If you have symptoms of a yeast infection, know this. The STD trich has similar symptoms.So before you try Monistat, use the Vagisil Screening Kit. It can tell you if you have a yeast infection, or need to see a doctor. Don’t guess, test.”
- “If you have symptoms of a yeast infection, know this. BV, the most common vaginal infection, has similar symptoms. So before you try Monistat, use the Vaginal Screening Kit. It can tell you if you have a yeast infection, or need to see a doctor. Don’t guess, test.”
- “Are you sure it’s a yeast infection? It could be BV or even the STD Trich. So why guess? Don’t guess. Test.”
- “Many women who think they have a yeast infection don’t actually have one. In fact, two out of three women misdiagnose themselves.”
- “two out of three women misdiagnose themselves”
- “One in every four women misdiagnose themselves.”
NAD also considered whether the advertising at issue conveyed the implied message that women who use Monistat to treat a repeat yeast infection are guessing or putting their health in danger. (Full text of decision available to media upon request.)
The Vagisil Screening Kit, an FDA-approved pH assay, is packaged with two wands, color pH guides and directions. The wand is inserted vaginally in order to obtain a pH reading. The color on the wand’s pH paper is then compared to the color on a pH guide. According to the advertiser, the kit advises women to seek medical advice when the established marker indicates that the cause of the symptoms could be such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) or trichomoniasis (trich) usually elevates pH levels to 5.0 or higher.
Through its expert, the advertiser argued that pH assays are well-accepted and widely utilized. NAD noted in its decision that it was, overall, concerned about the alarmist tone of the challenged advertisements that convey the impression that there is a health epidemic of women misdiagnosing their yeast-infection symptoms.
Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD determined that none of the studies cited by the advertiser could support claims that women with uncomplicated medical histories who have been previously diagnosed with a yeast infection currently misdiagnose their symptoms at a rate of twenty-five to sixty-six percent of the time. Further, NAD determined that the record did not support the claim that women are “guessing” about whether they have a yeast infection or that “two out of three women misdiagnose themselves.,” NAD found that the advertiser’s evidence did support the general notion that some women who have previously been diagnosed by a physician may be unsure and/or incorrect about their self-diagnosis. Further, NAD found, even women with mixed diagnoses, who were technically correct that they had a yeast infection, may benefit from the Vagisil screening kit.
NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its claims “it can tell you if you have a yeast infection, or need to see a doctor. Don’t guess, test.” and “Are you sure it’s a yeast infection? It could be BV or even the STD Trich. So why guess? Don’t guess. Test.”
NAD further recommended that the advertiser discontinue its claims “Many women who think they have a yeast infection don’t actually have one. In fact, two out of three women misdiagnose themselves.” and “One in every four women misdiagnose themselves.”
Further, NAD recommended the advertiser include a clear conspicuous disclosure about the limitations of the screening kit in close proximity to any performance claims. NAD found that the current disclosure that that the kit is for women with “normal periods” was insufficient because it did not address other circumstances – following intercourse or douching, for example – under which the kit will not render useful results.
NAD noted that nothing in this decision prevents the advertiser from addressing concerns that women may be unsure about their self-diagnosis, educating women about the similarity of symptoms between BV, Trich and yeast infections and accurately describing the function of the Vagisil screening kit.
Combe, in its advertiser’s statement, said that while it did not agree with findings, it did appreciate
“having had the opportunity to participate in the self-regulatory program and commends the NAD for its efforts and commitment.” “For the record, the television commercials which were the principal focus of this NAD proceeding are no longer being aired on television and related website changes are in progress. Combe will take NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising,” the company said.
NAD’s inquiry was conducted under NAD/CARU/NARB Procedures for the Voluntary Self-Regulation of National Advertising. Details of the initial inquiry, NAD’s decision, and the advertiser’s response will be included in the next NAD/CARU Case Report.
About Advertising Industry Self-Regulation: The National Advertising Review Council (NARC) was formed in 1971. NARC establishes the policies and procedures for the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the CBBB’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) and the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP).
The NARC Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the American Advertising Federation, Inc. (AAF), American Association of Advertising Agencies, Inc., (AAAA), the Association of National Advertisers, Inc. (ANA), Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. (CBBB), Direct Marketing Association (DMA), Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Its purpose is to foster truth and accuracy in national advertising through voluntary self-regulation.
NAD, CARU and ERSP are the investigative arms of the advertising industry’s voluntary self-regulation program. Their casework results from competitive challenges from other advertisers, and also from self-monitoring traditional and new media. NARB, the appeals body, is a peer group from which ad-hoc panels are selected to adjudicate NAD/CARU cases that are not resolved at the NAD/CARU level. This unique, self-regulatory system is funded entirely by the business community; CARU is financed by the
children’s advertising industry, while NAD/NARC/NARB’s primary source of funding is derived from membership fees paid to the CBBB. ERSP’s funding is derived from membership in the Electronic Retailing Association. For more information about advertising industry self-regulation, please visit www.narcpartners.org.