The power of the celebrity spokesperson

October 21, 2016
Leslie E. O’Dell, OD, FAAO

Leslie E. O’Dell, OD, FAAO, is the director of Dry Eye Center of PA and Wheatlyn Eye Care in Manchester, PA. Dr. O’Dell lectures throughout the east coast and internationally on dry eye related topics. She is a graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Opto

In the past when you thought of Jennifer Aniston, the girl-next-door character Rachel from Friends would come to mind.

The views expressed here belong to the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Optometry Times or UBM Medica.

In the past when you thought of Jennifer Aniston, the girl-next-door character Rachel from Friends would come to mind. Recently you’ve been seeing her in commercials for Aveeno and airline carrier Emirates. And now you’ll be seeing her even more.

This summer has brought not one but two celebrities to the forefront of dry eye awareness.

Allergan introduced Marisa Tomei in July, and more recently, Shire introduced Jennifer Aniston as its celebrity spokesperson.

Shire’s “My Eye Love” advertisement campaign features Jennifer Aniston talking to consumers in television spots, like she would a friend, about eyelove with the Beatle’s All you need is Love playing in the background. It is very appealing for its target audience-women.

These two celebrities are not the first to promote a chronic disease or medication. They join the many celebrity endorsements already in health care. There is power in featuring a celebrity. The public tends to look to celebrities for help in guiding their choices when it comes to fashion, beauty, and lifestyle trends and now their health.

Some question if these celebrities truly suffer from the conditions they help promote.

More from Dr. O'Dell: Understanding and defining MGD

 

Celebrities are not immune to dry eye

For Aniston, although she is portrayed to be afraid of her eye doctor in an old Friends episode, her struggle with dry eye is genuine. An old co-worker saw firsthand her self-reported eye drop addiction during the Horrible Bosses premier. Aniston was spotted in a public restroom using artificial tears. Her strong propensity to use drops was also reported in People Magazine’s “What’s in the bag,” which is how Shire and now the world knows of her underlying dry eye disease.

What about the money spent on these awareness campaigns?

According to data from real-time TV ad tracker iSpot.tv, Allergan is currently airing two Restasis TV spots with more than $20 million spent thus far in 2016 on TV ads.1 It is evident that awareness is needed for both eyecare providers as well as patients.

The Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society is working to release a 10-year update to its Dry Eye Workshop (TFOS DEWS II www.tearfilm.org) in early 2017, and part of this initiative is public awareness. In the United States, nearly 30 million adults report symptoms consistent with dry eye disease, but only an estimated 5 million are diagnosed with the condition.2

Dry eye disease is chronic and progressive, resulting in symptoms that have been shown to negatively impact a patient’s quality of life and even work productivity. A recent study showed dry eye sufferers have a functional impairment in reading rates with slower rates for both oral and silent reading.3

In the case of meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), the meibomian glands can atrophy to the point of no return where treatments are geared toward palliative care (lipid layer replacement with tear supplicments/controlled environment with goggles) vs. restorative care (manual expression/LipiFlow [TearScience]). If patients would raise concerns of comfort or blurred vision sooner during their routine eye exams, there is hope to stop this end stage loss of glands.

Related: Dry eye should remain in the hands of eyecare providers

 

Celebrity endorsements impact awareness

If the efforts of Allergan and Shire and the celebrity power of Aniston and Tomei raise this awareness, then why be a skeptic? Eye care will benefit, and more importantly, the patients we serve will benefit by starting treatments that can improve their quality of life, ocular surface, and overall quality of vision.

These campaigns will spark conversation and public interest in dry eye for the near and hopefully the long term. It’s crucial to be prepared to leverage the power of celebrity in helping advance dry eye awareness and treatment amongst your patients.

Be ready for patients calling and coming in talking about the Aniston eyelove campaign. Educate yourself on the new treatment available with Shire’s Xiidra (lifitegrast), the only FDA-approved medication for the treatment of signs and symptoms of dry eye disease.

Learn how this new medication fits into the existing treatments available to dry eye patients.

Educate your staff on the advancements in dry eye disease treatment in order for them to address questions this new awareness campaign will bring. You may want to also update your protocol for testing and screening patients for dry eye within your practice.

Are you a CLIA-waived practice able to do current point-of-care (osmolarity and InflammaDry, Rapid Pathogen Screening) testing to aid in the diagnosis of dry eye disease?

Are you using new technology to assess non-invasive tear break up time or meibography with TearScience’s LipiView II and LipiScan or Oculus Keratograph 5M?

If not, now is the time to embrace dry eye disease in your practices.

References

1. iSpot.tv. Available at: https://www.ispot.tv/search?term=restasis&qtype=full. Accessed 10/21/16.

2.Smith JA, Albeitz J, Begley C, et al. The epidemiology of dry eye disease: Report of the epidemiology subcommittee of the International Dry Eye Workshop (2007) Ocul Surf. 2007;5:93–107.

3. Mathews PM, Ramulu PY, Swenor BS, Utine CA, Rubin, GS, Akpek EK. Functional Impairment of reading in patients with dry eye. Br J Ophthalmol. 2016 Jul 22. doi: 10.1136/bjophthalmol-2015-308237. [Epub ahead of print]

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