TV ads for psoriasis and eczema medications portray few people of color

Commercials from pharmaceutical companies advertising medication to treat psoriasis and eczema lack people from racial and ethnic minorities, according to research from the Perelman School of Medicine.

Black family watching television, two children lying on the carpet, two parents on the couch behind them.

The underrepresentation of people of color in these ads is disproportional to the diverse population of patients living with these conditions. What’s more, among all the people who could benefit from the most effective psoriasis or eczema medications, nonwhite patients are less likely to receive them. The research, which was published in the journal Cutis, suggests that the low numbers of minorities in pharmaceutical ads may play a role in the treatment disparities that are seen in real life.

After watching major TV networks from 5:00 to 11:00 pm over 14 consecutive days, researchers at Penn spotted 40 commercials for psoriasis or eczema medication. In them, there were 81 characters portrayed as having psoriasis and 80 characters portrayed as having eczema. Ninety-three percent of the characters in the psoriasis commercials appeared to be white, and 54% of the characters in the eczema commercial appeared to be white.

“While greater representation of white adults in psoriasis commercials reflects our current understanding that psoriasis is most common among white people, psoriasis is still a common skin condition among other races and ethnicities that are not currently well-represented in the ads,” says senior author Junko Takeshita, an assistant professor of dermatology and epidemiology. “In the case of eczema, it is especially problematic that white children are mostly shown considering that the rates of eczema are higher among Black children.”

This story is by Alex Gardner. Read more at Penn Medicine News.