Menopause Matters secretly promotes advertisers on Twitter

  1. Menopause Matters, a trusted source of information for both women experiencing the menopause, and healthcare professionals (HCPs), secretly promotes advertisers on Twitter. Here I show two examples.
  2. Managing director Dr Heather Currie, a high-profile gynaecologist and obstetrician, founded multi award-winning Menopause Matters (MM) as a website. She was chair of the British Menopause Society (BMS), the influential menopause charity, in 2016-17; and continues to be a trustee (see 17 July 2017 post).

    Figure 1. Menopause Matters homepage at 16 September 2017

  3. MM bills itself as independent. Nevertheless its website carries loads of ads for menopause-related products and services (screen shot in Figure 1), proclaiming at the foot of each page: “Adverts on this website are not endorsed by Menopause Matters.” There’s also a shop on the website, and another statement MM doesn’t endorse any of the products and services advertised there. At date of publication there are 21 – yes, 21 – advertisers in the shop, including Hyalofemme, a vaginal moisturiser, and Physicool’s cooling spray for hot flushes (screen shot in Figure 2).

    Figure 2. Menopause Matters shop at 4 December 2017

  4. MM isn’t just a website. It publishes a quarterly magazine of the same name, similarly chock-full of ads. The latest, for winter 2017, is the 50th issue. There’s an active presence on social media, too, including Twitter (@menomatters). On 14 September 2017, MM tweeted about so-called EveryWoman Day on that date (screen shot in Figure 3), without disclosing the UK distributor of Hyalofemme – and MM advertiser – was behind it. While a month later (18 October 2017), MM retweeted a tweet from Physicool linking to its blog post supposedly about menopause-related anxiety (screen shot in Figure 4). Again, MM failed to say Physicool is an advertiser.

    Figure 3. Menopause Matters tweets about EveryWoman Day on 14 September 2017

    Figure 4. Menopause Matters retweets Physicool tweet on 18 October 2017

  5. Purple Orchid Pharma Limited, the UK distributor of Hyalofemme, is responsible for so-called EveryWoman Day. This year EveryWoman Day was “raising awareness” of vaginal dryness, funnily enough – and so Hyalofemme too (screen shot in Figure 5). And who should appear on the EveryWoman Day website on 14 September 2017 writing about vaginal dryness and vaginal moisturisers – Dr Currie (screen shot in Figure 6). She didn’t actually name Hyalofemme, though. That day, meanwhile, she was also quoted on the Purple Orchid Pharma website, where it waffled about EveryWoman Day and “highly effective” Hyalofemme (Figure 5). Therefore EveryWoman Day was little more than a marketing campaign for Hyalofemme. So why was the MM founder and managing director directly involved in such a misleading promotion? And why did “independent” MM tweet about EveryWoman Day, without revealing the UK distributor of Hyalofemme – and MM advertiser – was actually responsible for the campaign?

    Figure 5. EveryWoman Day “raising awareness” of vaginal dryness and vaginal moisturiser Hyalofemme at 16 September 2017

    Figure 6. Dr Heather Currie writes about vaginal dryness and vaginal moisturisers for EveryWoman Day at 16 September 2017

  6. EveryWoman Day in September 2017 wasn’t the first time Dr Currie publicly linked herself to Hyalofemme or its UK distributor. In 2011, for example, she commented explicitly about the vaginal moisturiser after it became available on prescription, according to The Hysterectomy Association website (screen shot in Figure 7).

    Figure 7. Dr Heather Currie quoted in 2011 on vaginal moisturiser Hyalofemme at 16 September 2017

  7. On 18 October 2017, MM retweeted a tweet from Physicool linking to its blog post supposedly about menopause-related anxiety (screen shot in Figure 8). The final paragraph of the anonymous post crowbarred in a plug for its spray: “If you are currently struggling with anxiety, attempting to ease other symptoms of menopause that you are experiencing, will make it easier to deal with. Our cooling spray is perfect for easing any hot flushes that you could be experiencing, helping you to get a better nights (sic) sleep. If you’re looking for more information on menopause and how to cope with it, check out our blog here for more information.”

    Figure 8. Physicool blog post supposedly about menopause-related anxiety at 20 October 2017

  8. It’s unclear why any woman experiencing the menopause, or HCP, should listen to Physicool on menopause-related anxiety. What exactly are its credentials to offer mental health advice, when it flogs a cooling spray? More seriously still, why did MM retweet the company’s tweet on this subject? And, of course, why did MM omit to mention Physicool is an advertiser?
  9. MM also accepts funding from pharmaceutical companies. For 2016, it declares funding from three drug firms: Bayer, Meda and Mylan (screen shot in Figure 9). MM hides the relevant amounts, though, which is obviously against the public interest. Previously, I exposed Mylan’s demonstrable track record in the UK of questionable, sometimes dishonest, practices in both its marketing of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to the public and its closeness to the menopause charities (see 17 July 2017 and 10 October 2017 posts). Those exposés were reported by The Sunday Times (see 31 July 2017 post) and Private Eye (see 3 November 2017 post). (HRT is the main treatment for menopause.) Thus funding from Mylan is a concern, whatever the amount.

    Figure 9. Menopause Matters sponsors at 4 December 2017

  10. MM, as I say, is a trusted source of information for both women experiencing the menopause, and HCPs. The official NHS Choices website, for example, lists MM as one of its “useful links” (screen shot in Figure 10). While Dr Currie, immediate past chair of BMS, is often quoted in the national media on menopause. For instance, she featured prominently in BBC Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark’s high-profile BBC TV documentary earlier this year, “Kirsty Wark: The Menopause and Me”. Its website explicitly states MM doesn’t endorse the many, many menopause-related products and services advertised there, which is a good thing, if true. It engenders public trust and confidence in its pronouncements and activities. Thus it’s particularly disappointing MM secretly promotes advertisers on Twitter. Self-styled independent MM isn’t independent at all.

    Figure 10. Menopause Matters on NHS Choices at 4 December 2017

  11. I sought a response from Dr Currie, who said in an email: “Regarding the issues raised, I am confident that the Social Media statement in our Disclaimer and Privacy section covers the questions raised and that there will be no further need for any email discussion” (screen shot in Figure 11). I disagreed, challenging her reply for two reasons. First, the social media statement to which she referred is new. How do I know? The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine shows that, previously, the social media statement wasn’t on the MM Disclaimer & Privacy page (see the page at 11 July 2017, for example: Similarly, on 5 December 2017, MM suddenly and without explanation tweeted a “disclaimer” about its retweets (screen shot in Figure 12). This was the day after I first emailed Dr Currie for comment. Second, the social media statement clearly fails to address all the issues, despite what she said. At date of publication I’ve received no further response from the MM founder and managing director.

    Figure 11. Social media statement on Menopause Matters Disclaimer & Privacy page at 11 December 2017

    Figure 12. Menopause Matters “disclaimer” tweet on 5 December 2017


Who funded latest BMS national PR campaign?

  1. Today (18 October 2017) is 2017 World Menopause Day, as Allison Pearson told readers in her Daily Telegraph column, er, today. She didn’t mention GP and menopause expert Dr Louise Newson this time, though (see previous post).
  2. To coincide with 2017 World Menopause Day, charity the British Menopause Society (BMS; registered charity number: 1015144) today released the results of an online survey it commissioned on UK women’s experiences of the menopause. “The findings reveal the need for greater support for women experiencing the menopause across the UK,” claims BMS. Here’s the press release, which shows the charity again used PR company Edelman: EMBARGOED-UNTIL-18-OCT-2017-00.01_BMS-Survey-Results-2017_Press-Release.
  3. BMS used Edelman for last year’s national PR campaign organised around a 2015 survey (see 17 July 2017 post). There I revealed who actually funded the previous PR campaign – three pharmaceutical companies: Novo Nordisk, Mylan and Pharmacare. Prior to my investigation, BMS hadn’t disclosed the funding sources.
  4. As today’s press release shows, the charity has again failed to be transparent about who’s funded its PR campaign. It says nothing about funding. Disappointing, but predictable.

The Daisy Network exposé in The Sunday Times

  1. On 30 July 2017, Andrew Gilligan, senior correspondent, used my The Daisy Network exposé (see 17 July 2017 post) as the basis of a report in The Sunday Times newspaper.
  2. Gilligan‘s report (“Menopause charities linked to US-based HRT company”) is available on the newspaper’s website, behind a paywall: Here too is a scanned copy of the page for those like me outside the paywall: The Sunday Times 30 July 2017.

Brand manager at HRT manufacturer is trustee of charity providing “support, information and networking opportunities” to women with premature menopause

  1. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the main treatment for menopause. The manager of the HRT portfolio at pharmaceutical company Mylan UK is a trustee of The Daisy Network, a charity providing “support, information and networking opportunities” to women with premature menopause (registered charity number: 1077930). At date of publication the charity website fails to disclose her paid role at the drug firm, however. Her fatal conflict of interest as a trustee is hidden.
  2. The charity website is key for transparency and accountability. Daisy hasn’t been required to submit its trustees’ annual report (TAR) and accounts to the Charity Commission in each of the last five financial years because reported income each year was below the £25k threshold. Without TAR and accounts, though, there’s very little information about the charity on the public record. It’s thus easy for The Daisy Network and other small charities, as defined by income, to avoid scrutiny (see 9 September 2015 post). There’s no suggestion that the charity has done anything illegal.
  3. Daisy has five trustees, according to the commission online public register of charities. The trustee biographies on the charity website are vague and incomplete. For a start, the group isn’t explicitly identified as the trustees: it’s simply “our people” (screen shot in Figure 1). Last names are undisclosed. Katie, for example, has worked in the “healthcare industry for over 4 years… [with] experience in advertising, journalism and marketing.” She’s “editor” at the charity.

    Figure 1. Charity The Daisy Network website: “our people” page at 6 July 2017

  4. Katie is actually Katie Sewards, who manages the HRT portfolio at Mylan UK (screen shot in Figure 2). Ms Sewards told Pharmafield in a profile published on 24 April 2017 that she’s used her “[pharma] experience to volunteer my time to a women’s health charity over the past 12 months” (screen shot in Figure 3). The charity isn’t named, though.

    Figure 2. Katie Sewards: brand Manager at Mylan UK at 6 July 2017

    Figure 3. Katie Sewards: voluntary role at “a women’s health charity” at 6 July 2017

  5. Ms Sewards previously worked for Swedish drugmaker Meda, which Mylan took over in 2016:
  6. And last year Meda funded a PR campaign to promote use of HRT in women, a campaign aimed at both primary care professionals AND patients (screen shot in Figure 4). The campaign was run by agency Events 4 Healthcare Ltd (E4H; registered company number: 06237925), whom Ms Sewards thanked for its “superb job” (screen shot in Figure 5).

    Figure 4. Funded by Meda, PR campaign to promote use of HRT in women; aimed at both primary care professionals AND patients at 6 July 2017

    Figure 5. Katie Sewards thanks Events 4 Healthcare Ltd for its “superb job” on HRT PR campaign at 6 July 2017

  7. E4H used a linked organisation, the Primary Care Women’s Health Forum (PCWHF), that it operates from the same address, to reach primary care workers. Although PCWHF says it’s a charity on its homepage (screen shot in Figure 6), it isn’t one. Rather, it’s a community interest company (CIC; registered company number: 08747435).

    Figure 6. The Primary Care Women’s Health Forum (PCWHF) “is a charity”: homepage at 6 July 2017

  8. PCWHF now no longer states it’s a charity on the website, after I questioned the claim in an email. “Thank you for bringing this to our attention, this has now been addressed,” said the single-sentence response the next day.
  9. Pharmafield, who published the profile of Ms Sewards (see paras 4-5), is part of the E4H group, too.
  10. In July 2016, PCWHF published its “HRT Myths Uncovered” document, the basis of the PR campaign: HRT-Myths-Uncovered. The two-page document states: “Funded and supported by Meda Pharmaceuticals. Developed by Primary Care Women’s Health Forum (PCWHF). Please note Meda has had no involvement in the content of this graphic, but reviewed for factual accuracy.” It finishes by telling readers: “For further information, please visit Menopause Matters [a website] & The Daisy Network.” There’s no mention that Meda is linked to Daisy (via Ms Sewards), however.
  11. The “HRT Myths Uncovered” document thus creates the impression that The Daisy Network is an independent charity. It isn’t. The link with Meda (now Mylan UK) undermines its independence and credibility. What’s worse, Daisy hides the link.
  12. Independence and credibility are critical for any charity, let alone one for women experiencing premature menopause. The problem is that The Daisy Network is only the latest menopause charity to be entangled with pharmaceutical companies. In November 2015, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published its guideline on the diagnosis and management of menopause. On the back of the NICE guideline, charity the British Menopause Society (BMS; registered charity number: 1015144) organised a PR campaign to “educate women about all aspects of the menopause and post-reproductive health.” The trustees documented the objectives of the campaign in their annual report, made up to 31 December 2015. They also stated that it was funded by “three unrestricted educational grants” from “pharmaceutical companies and a healthcare company.” But they failed to disclose the names of the three firms whose grants funded the national PR campaign.
  13. I therefore asked BMS in an email to identify the companies. They were: Novo Nordisk, Mylan and Pharmacare, said Sara Moger, BMS chief executive (email). Mylan again, then.
  14. I shall return in a later post to something else Ms Moger told me in the email about BMS’s reporting of funding from companies.
  15. In the month before publication of the NICE guideline, Mylan funded a controversial PR campaign – in its own name this time – to promote use of HRT for menopause, as Sarah Boseley revealed in The Guardian newspaper: Here’s the relevant Mylan press release on 19 October 2015, “Women may be suffering needlessly during menopause:” I asked Ms Moger in an email whether the Mylan press release was part of the BMS national PR campaign. Why the question? For two reasons. First, the press release is entirely consistent with the objectives of the BMS national PR campaign, according to the charity TAR, made up to 31 December 2015, p.6. Second, something not mentioned by The Guardian: the two non-Mylan experts quoted in the press release are linked or have been linked to BMS/WHC: Susan Quilliam (screen shot in Figure 7) and Dr Sarah Gray (screen shot in Figure 8).

    Figure 7. Susan Quilliam joins medical advisory panel of charity Women’s Health Concern at 16 June 2017

    Figure 8. Dr Sarah Gray “sat on the British Menopause Society council for 10 years”: speaker biography for 2017 PCWHF annual conference at 5 July 2017

  16. Charity Women’s Health Concern (WHC) is the self-styled “patient arm” of BMS (registered charity number: 279651). Ms Moger is one of the three trustees, and again public contact.
  17. The Mylan press release wasn’t part of the BMS national PR campaign, replied Ms Moger (email). Nevertheless my question was reasonable for the two reasons above. Something else about BMS’s campaign deserves attention: the PR company the charity used.
  18. Disappointingly, the BMS annual report failed to identify the company. It was Edelman, I can reveal (screen shot in Figure 9). And Edelman acts for Novo Nordisk on menopause treatments, according to a 2013 press release from the drug company for a research paper (screen shot in Figure 10). But it’s cosier than that: Novo Nordisk explicitly mentioned the then BMS affiliations of two co-authors it quoted in the press release for its study, Dr Heather Currie and Dr Nick Panay. Dr Currie has just stepped down as BMS chair, while Dr Panay is a trustee.

    Figure 9. Edelman PR campaign for charity the British Menopause Society at 8 June 2017

    Figure 10. Edelman press release for Novo Nordisk at 8 June 2017

  19. And Dr Panay, who’s former BMS chair, brings us back to The Daisy Network: he’s “a longstanding patron” of the charity (screen shot in Figure 11). It’s a small world.

    Figure 11. Dr Nick Panay: “a longstanding patron” of charity The Daisy Network at 6 July 2017

  20. There’s another problem with Daisy, and it again relates to medications. On 29 June 2017, the charity tweeted a link to its interview on the website (screen shot in Figure 12), which describes itself as “a private online health clinic based in the UK” (screen shot in Figure 13). Its services include an online pharmacy. At date of publication there’s a sentence, undated and unexplained, at the foot of each page on “We are reviewing our services and systems and we are unable to process orders at this time.” The same message appears prominently on the homepage. Similarly, callers to its customer service number during the advertised opening hours hear a recorded message that finishes abruptly: “We’re sorry there’s no one available to take your call right now. Please leave a message and we’ll get back to you.”

    Figure 12. Charity The Daisy Network on Twitter promoting its interview with, online pharmacy at 7 July 2017

    Figure 13. “about us” page at 6 July 2017

  21. has recently been in the news – for all the wrong reasons. In March this year, regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published a damning inspection report into the online provider, as Dr Faye Kirkland reported on the BBC News website: The CQC suspended its registration “in order to protect patients.” In October 2016, Dr Kirkland exposed in her investigation of the inappropriate sale of antibiotics by online pharmacies, for programme 5 live Investigates, on BBC Radio 5 live.
  22. In light of the CQC’s censure and suspension of registration, it’s astonishing that The Daisy Network is happy to be associated with That the charity is promoting its association on Twitter is equally astonishing.
  23. As BMS shows, the problem of menopause charities being too close to the pharmaceutical industry, or reasonably perceived as such, isn’t new. Yet The Daisy Network is a worrying escalation: the manager of the HRT portfolio at a leading drug company is a trustee. She thus has a fatal conflict of interest, actual, potential, or perceived, as a trustee. As a small charity by income, and so without publicly available TAR and accounts, its website is key for transparency and accountability. Of as much concern as the conflict of interest, therefore, is that the charity website hides how it arises. Further, Daisy is happy to be associated with a discredited online pharmacy – and promote its association on Twitter.
  24. At date of publication The Daisy Network hasn’t responded to requests for comment via email.