An advert for propranolol – a beta blocker prescribed to combat anxiety disorders – was removed yesterday after it received immense backlash for stating the medication could be used for people ‘nervous about’ a ‘big date’.
The company responsible is called Hers, a venture launched by mens health start-up Hims which offers access to telemedicine. Using a direct-to-consumer format, the brands offer various ‘wellness’ products from hair thinning treatment and shampoo to libido enhancing medication and anti-anxiety drugs.
‘Nervous about your big date?’ the advert for Hers ‘performance anxiety aid’ tablet read, ‘Propranolol can help stop your shaky voice, seating and racing heartbeat. No in-person doctor visits, just an online consultation and delivery can be right to the door.’ Priced at $25 dollars, the 20mg pill is sent by Hers in 5 installments over the course of a month, after an online doctor prescribes it ‘at the dose recommended by your doctor’.
‘Reduce that anxiety- performance,’ the product description reads, ‘anxiety can take many forms. It can creep up before an important presentation at work, large social gatherings, auditions or even interviews. Propranolol is a drug prescribed by doctors that can help ease those anxious nerves so that you can show up perfectly yourself when needed most.’
After receiving a ton of criticism for their advert pertaining to first dates, the brand removed the online post and issued an apology. ‘We got this one totally wrong,’ it read, ‘we agree the post was misguided and reductive, and we apologize that this slipped through the cracks. No one wants to hear a brand say, “that wasn’t out intent!” (Of course, it wasn’t.) But it’s not an excuse. Especially when it’s our mission to help get women the information, care and support they deserve.
‘The team at hers takes mental health very seriously, as does our team of medical advisors,’ the Instagram post continued, ‘hers aims to help the 27m people in America who may feel that their occasional situational anxiety holds them back. Ad copy? That, we might miss the mark on. But we are grateful you spoke up.’
Attempting to reduce the barriers to medication that plague the US health system, the company offers easier access to drugs. Of course, this poses many ethical issues. While the brands insistence on an online consultation before prescribing the medication can reduce fears around consumers self-diagnosing, the irresponsible advertising of this medication is not to be taken lightly.
‘I don't see how it would be a good idea for patients with mental illnesses to be having drugs pushed at them over social media and internet advertising,’ Dr Fenella Quinn, a counselling psychologist and member of the British Psychological Society told Grazia, ‘rather than having to go through the safety net of the medical profession. An experienced and highly trained doctor can assess and prescribe for any given individual's needs, which, even though the system no doubt has its problems, I would say is a far safer way of accessing medication for mental health problems.’
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‘Even though beta blockers seem to be quite a “mild” medication, they do in fact lower your heart rate and interfere with your body's natural responses and hormone production,’ she continued, ‘They do have side effects, although not generally severe but these can be severe in some cases. Beta Blockers can also interfere with other medications, which a doctor would be better placed to know about and guard against. For example, if you have asthma or diabetes you should not take beta blockers as they could have a harmful effect.