A few weeks ago I started to notice this advertisement for birth control pills:
It’s for Beyaz, made by Bayer Pharmaceuticals. It’s a version of the Yaz pill, that got a lot of attention because it supposedly provided relief from PMS. Those claims were deemed overstated and have been toned down quite a bit. In fact I haven’t seen a Yaz commercial in awhile, but these seem to be on all the time and I find the claim of added value to be confusing.
The new value add? Folic acid, a B vitamin that is particularly important for women during the first trimester of pregnancy because it reduces the incidence of neural tube birth defects. In my work focused on micronutrient malnutrition, I learned that folic acid was one of the big five vitamins and minerals that are lacking in many diets in the developing world. We advocated with governments to create policies mandating it be added to foods and worked with manufacturers to improve their processes. In most cases, micronutrient experts suggest that folic acid, iron and zinc be added to flours, while iodine should be added to salt and vitamin A to cooking oil or sugar. This isn’t a new approach, in fact it’s been done in the US and Europe for years. Some may even say that we go a little overboard in the US these days. Just start looking at the processed foods you eat, what vitamins and minerals are added? But adding folic acid to birth control pills? This is a totally new approach and frankly, I think it’s a little lame.
The lameness is really in targeting. Since the main purpose and stated value of adding folic acid to BeYaz is to prevent birth defects, the vehicle of a birth control pill seems like a serious mismatch. Most women taking birth control pills will, if they are effective at their main goal, not become pregnant and therefore not need additional folic acid. So, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, why not add vitamins and minerals in which women who want to avoid pregnancy (your target population) are more in need? Iron, calcium, vitamin D? There has been a strong push and evidence that adding these to one’s diet would be helpful. And, if you are going to the trouble of changing your formulation, it makes more sense to try to add something of real value.