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Valtrex Commercial Controversy

Thirty years ago herpes was a word that was reserved for the doctor's office or the boy's locker room. Today you can hear the words genital herpes during commercials for your favorite television show. The Valtrex commercials for the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. You see a couple walking hand in hand down the beach while the female talks about how having herpes doesn't have to negatively affect your life.

Recently I discovered that the annoying cold sores that I have experienced for the last twenty seven years were in fact Herpes Simplex Virus Type-1. At the time, I experienced a range of negative emotions that many people feel when they have been positively diagnosed with herpes. It was only because of a verbal smack down by a close personal friend that I was able to realize that I have lived with the virus for most of my life. Nothing about me had changed just because I had a medical name for the virus. I decided to do research and found an online support group through the web site www.yoshi2me.com called Picking up the Pieces.

Up until my own herpes status was confirmed, I never paid attention to the commercials regarding Valtrex. The product did not pertain to me, but  according to the Center for Disease Control "Nationwide, at least 45 million people ages 12 and older, or 1 out of 5 adolescents and adults, have had genital HSV infection." (www.cdc.gov) we are talking about 22% of the population of the United States. (Zacharioudakis, Manos A., 2001, p. 109) At this time, I don't feel it necessary to treat my HSV with antiviral therapy. If I had contracted HSV as an adult, I may feel differently.

In talking to people who have tested positive for HSV, I have found that they feel very strongly either one way or another about the Valtrex commercials. Either they think GlaxoSmithKline is making positive strides in showing how life goes on, or they feel that the commercials could be done differently. No matter the opinion, there doesn't seem to be any middle ground; either people love them or hate them.

It is felt by some that GlaxoSmithKline has a responsibility to educate the general public about statistics, transmission rates, and other medical facts regarding herpes. That by not educating the public GlaxoSmithKline has not lived up to their responsibility in public education. It is felt that the Valtrex commercials show that the female is more concerned with having sex sooner rather then dealing with the pain or irritation of having a genital herpes outbreak.

GlaxoSmithKline is taking steps in educating medical professionals. They pay to educate and transport specialists across the country to hold seminars with medical professionals. On their website www.valtrex.com, they have a variety of information from how to reduce the transmission as well as outbreaks. They also have tips on how to live with genital herpes.

Is GlaxoSmithKline taking advantage of the saying that sex sells? It is felt that rather then showing that the main advantages are taking Valtrex antiviral therapy for episodic outbreaks or as suppressive therapy to prevent outbreaks and lessen occurrences of asymptotic shedding, the commercials are implying that the woman in question is taking the product so that she can have sex sooner. Rather then showing that Valtrex reduces the physical pain and discomfort as well as emotional and mental anguish, GlaxoSmithKline is showing that there is life after herpes. No one takes exception to the Abreva commercials where the lady wants to speed healing of her cold sore so that she can go on vacation. This is the same virus, just a  different strain and location. No one says herpes in the Abreva commercials.

Let's face it, herpes is a sexually transmitted virus. The primary aspect of our lives affected by HSV-2 is our genitals. When you see a commercial for any other product, you see them actually using the product; from cellular phones to allergy medications. Valtrex commercials show that her life hasn't ended, which is one of the major thoughts that people first have when they find out they have herpes.

Is it the responsibility of GlaxoSmithKline to educate the public about herpes? The company already pays to educate medical professionals, works in 5 different ways to assist low income patients to receive medications at a reduced cost or in some cases even free. Valtrex.com, as well as offering education to the general public on their web site. This information is available in areas such as preventing the transmission of the virus and how to have "The Talk" with a potential sexual partner.

As the consumer we directly tell the companies out there exactly how we feel about their commercials. Take Wendy's for example, since the death of founder David Thomas; Wendy's embarked on a new marketing strategy "Mr. Wendy's", the unofficial spokesman.  This advertising campaign differed from Wendy's past campaigns where they focused on the food. It was announced Thursday November 4th 2004 that the Mr. Wendy's campaign has been canceled. According to Wendys.com earnings for 2004 are down by 10%. This is an example of the customer has spoken.

A more recent controversy I've noticed regarding the Valtrex commercials is whether the couple actually has herpes. I used the Google search engine to research "Valtrex Commercials". This search brought up a full page of different web boards where they discuss the Valtrex couple and their herpes status. So I actually went reading these pages and found some interesting quotes. It would seem that N. A. from www.commercialsihate.com wants to know what swing set they are using in the commercials so that he can avoid it. "What I want to know is where this swing is so I can avoid it and not sit on it" or that he feels he needs to avoid public pools because of a woman who has herpes swims in them.

It seems to me that this same man needs to think about who's been sleeping on the hotel bed before him when he goes on vacation. A little research available from a variety of web sites and he would see that he can not contract herpes from sitting on a swing set or even a public toilet seat. You can not get herpes from swimming in a public pool. The social stigma that goes along with herpes seems to be worse then the actual virus.

As a company, GlaxoSmithKline is concerned with profit. The company has gone out of their way to assist those who have tested positive for the herpes virus. It is not the responsibility of one company to change the world. I personally feel that GlaxoSmithKline has gone above and beyond the call of a simple pharmaceutical company in regards to their product Valtrex and genital herpes care in general.


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