Migraine attacks mess with our lives - big time! I get that, and like most of you, the minute I see or hear the word “migraine,” I’m paying attention.
Many products that people claim could help with migraine and other health issues aren’t medications, so they don’t come under FDA scrutiny. There are federal laws about false advertising, but there’s so much advertising, that little is done unless someone or a group takes someone to task or files a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Whether it’s an infomercial, a web site, or an Internet ad, they can look really slick and professional. Then there are the added incentives such as two-for-one specials, but one and get a second one for just the shipping charges, and so on. The bottom line is that it can be very difficult to tell if claims being made are potentially valid or not.
For example, you may have seen the television infomercial for MyPillow, or you may have seen their web site. You may have bought a MyPillow - after all, it was supposed to help with migraines. Here’s a screenshot of their web site as it appeared on February 1, 2016 (found through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine). Pay special attention to the conditions on the right side, under the red box, and the logos across the bottom blue bar:
A bit later in February, news came from TruthInAdvertising.org that they had contacted the owner of MyPillow, Michael J. Lindell, telling him that MyPillow, “does not have the substantiation required by law to make such health claims and that it (TruthInAdvertising) would file a complaint with the FTC if they weren’t removed.” Lindell responded by taking down many of the health statements from the website and pledging to stop that type of marketing. Here’s a current screenshot of that same section of the MyPillow web site:
We must take care not to make even small assumptions. Do you see the New York Times logo across the bottom of the first screenshot? From its location there, we’d most likely think that the New York Times endorsed MyPillow, right? We’d be absolutely wrong. In a slideshow of pillow reviews on the New York Times web site, Tony Cenicola wrote about MyPillow:
“It’s a good thing that My Pillow has a 60-day guarantee and a full-refund policy (save for shipping), because its patented foam stew — swollen, lumpy and bulgy — was no happy cocktail, but a recipe for a very stiff neck. I hurled the thing out of bed at 3 a.m.”
The Bottom Line:
With enough wrapping paper and bows, most anything can be made into an attractive package. When it comes to products with health claims attached, we need to, at the very least, learn two words of Latin - “caveat emptor,” buyer beware. Another axiom we’d do well to keep in mind is, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
Sadly, some things that seem quite reasonable are advertised with health claims that have no basis in fact. We almost need to be detectives and investigate products before purchasing them. In some cases, our doctors are good partners in these investigations. They can often assess the claims and help us out with their opinions. At the very least, we should approach purchases with caution, look for warranties, and always read the fine print.
TruthInAdvertising.org. “MyPillow Pledges to Put Unsubstantiated Health Claims to Rest.”
Farrell, Mary H.J. "My Pillow Faulted for False Health Claims. ConsumerReports.org. February 25, 2016.
Green, Penelope. “The Pillow Cure.” The New York Times. February 11, 2015.
Cenicola, Tony. “Six Nights, Seven Pillows.” The New York Times. February 11, 2015.
**Reviewed by David Watson, MD.
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.