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Nurofen ‘See My Pain’ Campaign: The Bigger Issue Of Gender Bias In Medicine

Towards the end of 2022, Nurofen, a pain-relief medicine company, launched a campaign called ‘See My Pain’, which sought to address the issue of women’s dismissal by medical professionals. In the spring of 2023, an advert featured women discussing the experiences they had when talking to medical professionals about their pain. The TV advert featured the most common phrases women received like “Maybe you’re stressed”, “You need more sleep”, and “It’s just wear and tear”. The advert displays the statistic that 1 in 2 women feel their pain was dismissed because of their gender. 

In both 2022 and 2023, Nurofen produced Gender Pain Gap reports to shed more light on the issue of gender bias in medicine. Some of the key findings from the 2023 report included that the Gender Pain Gap had widened from 7 to 11 percent in the past year. 72 percent of the women who were surveyed felt that men’s pain was taken more seriously. That’s almost three-quarters of the women involved in the report, a nine percent increase from the previous year. It was also found that 23 percent of women in the survey hadn’t tried to get a diagnosis through fear of being dismissed. 

Nurofen’s ‘See My Pain’ campaign also came with a Pain Pass, a five-step guide on how to get the right medical help made for women. First of all, there’s an acronym for the word pass:

P - Pause the conversation

A - Ask questions for clarity

S - Speak up

S - Seek another opinion

The second step of the pain pass is to use the free system to track pain and symptoms to have details when talking to a medical professional. The following step is to find the right words provided by Nurofen to describe the pain. Next, there’s a pain scale of 1 to 5, for women to use to rate their pain in accordance to how their lives are disrupted, with 1 being minimal disruption and 5 being maximum. 

Finally, the fifth step includes things for women to remember, including the PASS acronym, family health history, bringing someone with them to appointments, and feeling entitled to be treated for their pain. The actual pain pass is a downloadable PDF with the five-step system, as well as a calendar for tracking pain and a log for times when pain has been shared with a medical professional. 

The pain-relieving company has recently partnered with the charity Wellbeing of Women to conduct a study spanning three years and “will investigate health literacy levels and attitudes towards menstrual pain in adolescent girls and women. It will also address the impact these attitudes have had over time on women’s health journeys.” 

Nurofen is also working to develop a product made specifically for women’s pain. They have also created a free Gender Pain Gap training programme for HCPs across Great Britain, with Superdrug committing to train pharmacists, pharmacy assistants, and nurses in this area. 

The company have also pledged to focus on key areas as a commitment to close the gender pain gap:

  1. Visible in research: “Nurofen is committed to gender balance in the design, conduct and analysis of clinical research and commit to including, studying, and understanding women in research.”

  2. Visible in healthcare: “Nurofen will invest in training to specifically support HCPs identify and overcome any gender bias within their daily work, with training reviewed by Nurofen's HCP advisory board.”

  3. Visible in product: “Nurofen commits to innovation that brings new and improved solutions for women's pain.”

  4. Visible over time: “Nurofen is committed to commissioning the Gender Pain Gap Index Report regularly to track progress on closing the gap over time.”

A company as big as Nurofen creating this campaign could be massively beneficial to the medical industry regarding women’s health since there have been centuries of misdiagnosis or medical dismissal towards women that has become an epidemic across the world.

Medical Misdiagnosis In Women

Since 1999, the number of deaths caused by medical errors has gone from 98,000 a year, to over a quarter of a million per year, and it’s been suggested by countless research that women are far more likely to be misdiagnosed than men when being treated medically. Moreover, following a heart attack, women are 50 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed and even following a stroke, they have a 30 percent higher chance of misdiagnosis. Ethnic minorities are almost 30 percent more likely to receive a misdiagnosis, that statistic is even higher when it comes to women of colour. The main reason for misdiagnosis amongst women is merely due to medical research having predominantly been done on white males until recently, therefore the drugs used for certain treatments are incompatible with the female body.

Outdated research and training have caused suffering to so many women all over the world, especially women of colour and women living in underdeveloped countries. Even everyday products like seatbelts in cars are not designed as well for female bodies as they are for men. It’s been found that 3.8 billion women can’t expect the same medical treatment that men receive.

However, this epidemic is nothing new. In Ancient Greece, it was thought that the uterus could wander throughout a woman’s body, ‘hystera’ is the Greek word for uterus, leading to the term hysteria. Hysteria was a supposed psychological disorder that affected women by making them ‘too emotional’ or ‘disobedient’. It was especially present throughout the 19th century, and up until the 1980s, was studied as a medical condition. Some modern-day feminists claim that ‘hysteria’ was a form of oppression against women. 

When comparing the hysteria craze with women’s misdiagnosis, it is easy to see similarities between the two, since they both derive from gender bias. Even with cancer, on average, women tend to be diagnosed approximately two and a half years later than male cancer patients. Only 20 percent of ovarian cancers are said to be found early and as many as 31 percent of breast cancer cases have been misdiagnosed. Even more shocking, women only make up 38 percent of cancer trials.

Women’s reproductive health is a whole other issue in itself, only very recently has menopause become a subject of medical training. In the ‘See My Pain campaign’, there are discussions of lab tests coming back to normal even though they don’t pick everything up. Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, according to The New Statesman, “affects roughly 10 percent of women and girls of reproductive age globally” but the testing for these conditions like blood tests don’t pick up anything abnormal, therefore leading to dismissal or misdiagnosis. 

Nurofen’s Pain Pass could be revolutionary within women’s healthcare if it's successful. It is so important when big companies, such as Nurofen, take notice of these kinds of issues that tend to be put on the back burner because of deeply rooted gender discrimination. Although it may be a small step in comparison with the wider issue of the women’s misdiagnosis epidemic, it’s a step in the right direction. Women may finally be able to break from the shackles of being ‘medical mysteries’ if health companies take more notice of this issue plaguing the medical field. 

Edited by Chloe Mansola

Image ‘depressed, frustrated, woman’ by Mohamed Hassan licenced by CC0 1.0


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Tags: #women #sexism #healthcare #medical #misdiagnosis #nurofen


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