Ibuprofen is a time-tested remedy for many a period-haver’s cramps and headaches, but are you, the consumer, more likely to reach for an Advil when it’s been rebranded to specifically target those suffering from menstrual pain?
On Wednesday, Jezebel received a tip from reader Hannah Herman, who after seeing multiple ads (all featuring women participating in varying athletics—on their periods, no less!) for Advil Menstrual Pain, grew wary over whether or not the medication, a film-coated ibuprofen sodium, differed at all from Advil Pain Reliever and Fever Reducer, also a film-coated ibuprofen sodium.
“Introducing Advil Menstrual Pain,” a woman’s voice says in a spot for the product. “Relief that’ll have you asking, what cramps? What headache? What aching back? Advil Menstrual Pain means powerful relief that makes even tough period pain a distant memory. So any time of the month is yours again.”
“At the beginning of your menstrual cycle, pain-signaling chemicals in your uterus called prostaglandins increase, causing painful cramps. Advil Menstrual Pain effectively reduces the production of prostaglandins, delivering powerful relief of your tough menstrual cramps,” a woman’s voice says in another, before going on to suggest that the caffeine used by other brands like Midol and Pamprin might result in side effects you don’t want.
Herman inquired about the difference between the two ibuprofens on the Advil Facebook page (a bleak corner of the internet, if I ever saw one) and, not receiving an answer, called the company’s customer care line. (Several comments on Advil’s page below these commercials echoed Herman’s question; whoever runs Advil’s social media replied to one of them Wednesday, “A lot of our wonderful fans have been asking about Advil® Menstrual Pain. To get an in depth answer, please call our Customer Care line at 1-800-882-3845. We’re standing by and ready to help.”) On the phone, she was told that the pills are in the exact same down to the dosage. Calling to confirm, Jezebel received the same answer—Advil Menstrual Pain and Advil Pain Reliever and Fever Reducer (the coated ibuprofen sodium option) are the exact same product in different packaging.
As to whether or not the products are priced the same, we found differing answers depending on the retailer. Target, for example, charges 50 cents more for 40 200 mg tablets of Advil Menstrual Pain than they do for 40 200mg tablets Advil Pain Reliever and Fever Reducer. At Walmart, the products cost the exact same. At CVS, the menstrual pain relief is marked at 20 cents/pill and sold in quantities of 40, while the basic pain reliever—sold in quantities of 20 or 80 tablets—sell respectively for 25 cents/pill and 14.1 cents/pill. Finally, cutting through the middle man, Jezebel contacted Pfizer, Advil’s parent company, directly and was told that the suggested retail price for a 40-count of either product was $5.99.
A conscious consumer will find it interesting that Advil is taking different marketing approaches for the same product—one that addresses unisex aches and pains and another targeted directly towards people who have periods. Is it a bad thing? While the use of pink packaging and dumbed-down advertising to appeal to women is annoying and typical, I’d say we’ve got much bigger things to worry about.
However, things become particularly heinous and worthy of public scorn when retailers take it upon themselves to impose a higher cost on unisex items (often hygiene products like razors or shampoo) once they’re marketed towards women, a.k.a a “pink tax.” Thankfully, consumers—such as Hannah Herman—are becoming more and more aware of pink taxing and calling it out at an increased rate. (In January, Tesco, the largest supermarket chain in Great Britain agreed to start selling their generic men and women’s razors for the same price after facing pressure from British lawmaker Paula Sherriff and the public.)
So what’s the lesson here? 1. The people working the Advil customer care line are all extremely polite. 2. Always look beyond branding and marketing. And 3. Feel free to keep treating your menstrual cramps with generic ibuprofen and weed.