Menopause Goes to the Super Bowl

US Menopause history is being made this Super Bowl Sunday with a 30-second commercial about menopausal hot flashes. This is the American National Football League championships, which are watched by about 100 million people and known for their clever advertisements.

In the ad, an actress names Carmella Riley “takes to the streets” to ask women if they know what “VMS” means, with viewers ultimately funneled to

As Anne Marie McQueen, an international journalist who covers all things menopause related for her media outlet Hotflash Inc explains in her recent article:

"The commercial is part of a campaign that’s been running on television since August, focusing on the technical term for hot flashes and night sweats, vasomotor symptoms (VMS).Like so many clever ad campaigns these days, in “What's VMS?” the actual product is never mentioned and the marketing is presented as education."

Brilliant timing as spot is funded by Japanese drug maker Astellas Pharma, which has a new non-hormonal therapy for hot flashes they are expecting to be approved by US regulators 11 days after the spot screens, on February 22. It’s called fezolinetant, and it’s part of a class of drugs known as selective neurokinin-3 receptor (NK3R) antagonists, which were originally developed to treat schizophrenia.

About half the Super Bowl viewership is female, and as Astellas’ senior director of marketing and women’s health Jill Jaroch tells EndPoints News, the ad is targeting the 17 million of them who are in prime hot flashes territory: ages 35-64.

“Our objective is to broadly raise awareness of vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause as a medical condition and really empower women to have informed conversations with their healthcare providers,” she says. “So what better way to reach as many people as we can than during the Big Game?”

"It’s being positioned as "awareness" campaign, but it’s hard to imagine that the people at Astellas would shell out US$6.5 million, which according to Forbes, is the average cost of 30-second Super Bowl ad this year, if they didn’t have a game-changing drug for hot flashes about to hit the market imminently.

This may all seem progressive for the US menopause conversation – and I suspect it’s going to be written about it that way come Monday – but it’s really subversive marketing. It lets a drug company create hype for a new drug without having to address any of its side effects. And there are always side effects. We’ll get to hear about those when the inevitable actual fezolinetant ads hit small screens, in a comically sped-up voiceover in the final seconds, no doubt"- states McQueen

In the meantime, anyone who visits the website out of curiosity will be prompted to “sign up to learn more” and when they do, they will be giving Astellas their email address and a direct pipeline for marketing once fezolinetant is approved. 

There is a real need for non-hormonal treatments for hot flashes, as many women can’t or prefer not take HRT. 

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