HEALTH

NAD recommends modification of Clearblue Easy Digital ad claims

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus last week recommended that SPD Swiss Precision Diagnostics, manufacturer of the Clearblue Easy Digital home pregnancy test, modify its advertising to clarify to consumers that the test only delivers completely “certain” results on or after the day of a consumer’s expected menstrual period.

The implied advertising claim was challenged before NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, by Church & Dwight, maker of First Response and Answer pregnancy test kits.

C&D charged that the claim in question was made in 15- and 30-second broadcast advertisements of Clearblue Easy Digital, and communicated the message that CBE Digital will provide completely “certain” results, regardless of whether a consumer uses the product on the day of her expected menstrual period or during the four-day episode prior to that menstrual period.

NAD noted in its decision that, according to both parties, advertising for at-home pregnancy test kits for many years primarily has focused on the products’ capability to detect pregnancy early — several days before a woman misses her period. NAD determined that it would be reasonable to conclude that consumers generally have come to expect at-home pregnancy tests to detect pregnancy prior to the day of a missed period.

SPD countered that the challenged commercials make no claim, implied or otherwise, about the early detection capability of the product, and do not falsely communicate to consumers that the product’s results are “certain,” even when the test is used before a woman’s missed menstrual period.

“Consumers might interpret our commercial against a background of some information they have assimilated from the advertising of pregnancy test manufacturers collectively,” SPD said in its advertiser statement. “We are troubled that this may be penalizing SPD for the omissions of others, and we suggest that overcoming this problem of implied messaging requires all pregnancy test manufacturers to clearly and explicitly explain the trade-off in their advertising.”

SPD noted that it would take the NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising.

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IRS reclassifies breast-feeding as medical expenditure

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service on Thursday reversed itself in announcing that breast-feeding supplies qualify as a medical expense.

The ruling now allows moms who are breast-feeding to purchase all supplies using a flexible spending account. Those without FSAs can deduct the expenses as part of their itemized medical expenditures, including breast-feeding expenses incurred in 2010.

“Today’s IRS ruling providing favorable tax treatment for the purchase of breast pumps and breast-feeding equipment marks an important victory for the health of women and children across the country by making breast-feeding a more practical option for new and working mothers,” said Marion Burton, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The AAP recommends that mothers breast-feed exclusively for the first six months and continue breast-feeding for at least the first year of a child’s life. As many as 45% to 50% of mothers return to work full time within six months of their infant’s birth; breast pumps allow working mothers to continue breast-feeding. “Before today, steep cost burdens could prevent working mothers from purchasing breast pumps and related equipment,” Burton said.

“Now, more women will be able to pass on the health benefits of breast-feeding to their babies, which include protections against asthma and other respiratory illnesses, bacterial and viral infections and obesity, among other ailments," Burton added. "Pre-tax dollars already cover expenses like immunizations and bandages, and thanks to today’s ruling, women who wish to breast-feed will experience these same cost savings for breast-feeding supplies.”

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FSA restrictions first piece of ObamaCare to be challenged

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Recent restrictions imposed on flexible spending accounts appear to be the first piece of ObamaCare to be challenged by the new Congress.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., on Thursday respectively introduced The Patients’ Freedom to Choose Act, a bill that would repeal two provisions in the Obama healthcare law that limit a patient’s choice in how to use consumer-directed health savings plans, to the Senate and House of Representatives.

“Under the health law, the federal government is stifling patients’ flexibility and freedom to use health benefit accounts that have helped make care more affordable for tens of millions Americans,” Hutchison stated. “Our bill strikes these arbitrary limitations and puts patients back in charge of how and when they’ll use [health savings account] and [flexible spending account] benefits.”

The move was met with wide support from retail pharmacy associations. “The legislation introduced by Sen. Hutchison and Rep. Paulsen is a critical step to ensure that the 19 million American households who have FSAs regain their ability to purchase [over-the-counter] medicines with pre-tax dollars,” stated Scott Melville, president and CEO of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “With the country’s annual cough, cold and flu season upon us, now is the time for Congress to support this bill and reduce the cost of health care for millions of consumers.”

Retail associations, including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the Food Marketing Institute, added their support of the legislation.

On Jan. 1, a provision in the new healthcare legislation took effect, prohibiting individuals from using funds from either HSAs or FSAs to purchase OTC medications without a prescription. In addition, starting in 2013, the Obama healthcare law will institute a $2,500 federal cap for all FSA contributions. More than 80% of all large employers that offer an FSA to their employees include a limit that is more than the $2,500 threshold, Hutchison noted.

A recent survey found that more than 90% of Americans preferred to seek treatment with OTCs before seeing a healthcare provider, the CHPA stated. In addition, nearly 90% of the physicians surveyed recommended that patients use OTC medicines before seeing their physicians. Under the new restriction, however, an overwhelming majority of physicians surveyed believed there will be an increased burden on medical professionals.

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