U.S. TV ads for psoriasis and eczema medications lack diverse representation

According to a study from lead author Dr. Junko Takeshita, the ads lack images of patients with skin of colour (800 words, 3.5 min)

In the U.S., direct-to-consumer television advertisements for psoriasis and eczema medications show a lack of diverse representation of patients, according to Dr. Junko Takeshita, lead author of a recent study published in Cutis (Sept. 2020; 106(03):147-150).

The investigators from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia found 93 per cent of characters portrayed in psoriasis commercials and 54 per cent of characters portrayed in eczema commercials to be White,  according to the study.

The investigators came to their conclusions by evaluating commercials appearing on major TV networks during primetime hours. Over a two-week period, researchers observed 40 commercials for psoriasis and eczema medication, according to the study.

This week, Dr. Takeshita spoke with Skin Spectrum Weekly about the problems that patients with skin of colour face as a result of a lack of representation in TV commercials.

Skin Spectrum Weekly: Why did you decide to pursue this research?

Dr. Junko Takeshita: This study was motivated by prior work that has come out of my research group, which found racial disparities in receipt of biologic therapies for psoriasis (specifically that Black patients with psoriasis are less likely than White patients to receive biologics) and that Black patients with psoriasis are generally unfamiliar with biologic therapies as treatment options for their skin disease. Knowing that DTC ads are so widespread and are important sources of information for the general public, we wanted to better understand how DTC ads may contribute to racial disparities in psoriasis treatment that we have observed. We also included eczema in our study due to many emerging therapies for this skin condition and the anticipation of an increasing number of DTC ads for eczema in the near future that may also contribute to emerging disparities in eczema treatment. 

SSW: What was your initial reaction to the results of the study?

JT: Many of the results were as we expected prior to performing the study. We hypothesized that there would be poor representation of racial/ethnic minorities in the DTC ads, and we found this, particularly among the psoriasis ads. The main characters in eczema ads were more diverse than in psoriasis ads but there were still deficiencies among the eczema ads (i.e., no Hispanic representation). We also identified other deficiencies including poor representation of older adults and poor visualization of—and presentation of—basic information about both skin diseases.

SSW: What problems can patients with skin of colour face as a result of a lack of representation in TV commercials?

JT: This lack of representation can contribute to poor familiarity with therapeutic options specifically among racial/ethnic minorities and even knowledge that psoriasis or eczema affects minority populations both among those who are at risk and among the general population. Our worry is that the DTC ads contribute to existing racial/ethnic disparities in treatment for psoriasis and eczema.

SSW: Of what practical use can this study be for dermatologists?

JT: Dermatologists should be aware of these deficiencies in psoriasis and eczema direct-to-consumer advertisement and take care not to further reinforce existing knowledge gaps and inequitable treatment patterns among patients.  

SSW: How would you like to see this study followed up?

JT: Some interesting questions to pursue going forward include evaluating patients' direct reactions to the DTC ads and how the DTC ads affect their knowledge of their skin disease, treatments, and decision to discuss the treatments with their medical provider and accept the treatment. 

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FROM THE LITERATURE ON RACIAL DISPARITIES IN RESEARCH AND ADVERTISING

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Access to Emerging and Frontline Therapies in Common Dermatological Conditions: A Cross-Sectional Study

  • Black and Hispanic patients were less likely to be prescribed medications for their skin issues including acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis, according to a recent study. The study, conducted by investigators at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md., looked at medications such as isotretinoin, adapalene, tazarotene, dapsone, desonide, tacrolimus and other medications. 

    From “J Natl Med Assoc”

Psoriatic Disease in the US Latino Population: A Comprehensive Review

  • A recent study has found evidence that there are differences in the severity of psoriasis in different racial populations in the United States. The researchers at the Department of Dermatology, Dermatology Clinical Research Center, University of California, Irvine concluded that barriers to care and a lack of representation in clinical studies may contribute to the perceived disparities.

    From “Am J Clin Dermatol.”

Racial/ethnic differences in incidence and persistence of childhood atopic dermatitis

  • The incidence of atopic dermatitis was found to be higher in Hispanic and Black children in the U.S. compared to White children, according to a recent study that looked at 1,437 mother-child pairs with known atopic dermatitis.

    From “J Invest Dermatol.”

VIDEO: Psoriasis and eczema TV commercials lack diversity

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