Why is “being ahead of the curve” a selling point for Verinata’s verifi?

Thursday, Non-Invasive Prenatal Screening (NIPS) laboratory Verinata is hosting a webinar open to the public about its brand of testing, verifi. Verinata’s choice in marketing taglines raises serious ethical concerns.verinata months ahead of the curve

Below is the full flier for the Verinata webinar for September 19, 2013, 12:30 – 1:30 pm, EST. It is open to the public and you should register to participate if interested:

verinata 091913 webinar

The purpose of the webinar, as suggested by its title, is to educate participants on how to integrate NIPS into prenatal practice, i.e. how a manufacturer of the new form of prenatal testing for Down syndrome and other aneuploidies thinks doctors and other health care providers should use its product. Included in the highlights are the clinical evidence to support Verinata’s verifi test (but not how it compares to any of the other NIPS tests) and to what extent Verinata’s verifi is covered by insurance.

The second bullet highlights that Verinata representatives will explain the “Role of NIPT and brief technology overview.” This informs the image and tagline Verinata chose to use to market its webinar.

The exposed woman’s belly is a photograph that has been a consistent part of Verinata’s branding. If you go on its website, the fifth in the scrolling images is the same image, but the message across the woman’s midriff is the one displayed at their conference exhibit booths and promotional materials:

verifi image

Now, the explanation for this image seems clear: pregnancy is associated with a woman’s midsection and verifi is a tests for genetic conditions in a pregnancy. But, that is why the new image is all the more troubling.

The NIPS labs have been very purposeful in avoiding any link between their product and terminating a pregnancy. Indeed, recently released ethical guidelines emphasize that testing manufacturers should:

  1. Avoid marketing strategies that focus on “prevention” or suggesting any condition justifies testing.
  2. Should not encourage abortion based on a genetic condition.

Now, to be fair, highlighting that test results are available earlier than ever in a pregnancy will no doubt be defended by some as highlighting the value of knowing earlier than ever that your pregnancy may be positive for one of the tested-for conditions. And, equally, no doubt many women will use the testing for just this reason. But, if this were the purpose of Verinata’s tag-line, wouldn’t it emphasize “knowing earlier than ever” versus emphasizing that you will get the information before you start to show? Before the world knows you are pregnant? 

Perhaps, I’m reading too much into Verinata’s webinar marketing piece, but what else could be the selling point–i.e. the marketing appeal–to showing a woman’s mid-section with the words “We’re months ahead of the curve” than to suggest, “our test lets you find out and make a decision to terminate before anyone else knows your pregnant?” And, since that is the case, Verinata’s marketing runs afoul of ethical guidance by, if not outright encouraging abortion, focusing on how the role of its testing can facilitate selective abortion.

Am I misreading the marketing message? 

Comments

  1. No, your on the money. They are just more honest than the ethical guidelines, which are smoke and mirrors. It’s a birth prevention screening, there’s no therapeutic benefit from the test.

  2. Stacey calcano says:

    I would say you are spot on with your interpretation of their tagline. There would be no other reason to use that particular phrase over a pre-expanding belly. Disgraceful.

  3. I enjoy your website, even though I come at prenatal testing from an entirely different point of view. I am a pregnant woman who took one of these tests very early on. In my case, termination was definitely on the table, and I am sure Verinata and the other companies realize they DO provide a valuable service to people who would abort for chromosomal abnormalities. One benefit of starting the process earlier is that, for many people (myself included), abortion at an earlier gestational stage feels less horrific than doing it later. Honestly, I doubt very many people go into this taking any old excuse to terminate. Follow up with amnio is always recommended in the instance of a positive NIP test. The process of confirming a prenatal diagnosis can take weeks, so starting the screening at 10 or 12 weeks is simply attractive if you would consider abortion for one of the trisomies that is tested for. I know you don’t support abortion for T21 under any circumstance and keep fighting the good fight in trying to persuade people to your position. However, many people simply don’t agree with your position and so find value in a testing process that starts early enough that options remain available and “feel” more humane (even though there will always be disagreement about what constitutes humane in these cases). Doctors must be aware they are in a position of serving patients who are pro choice/ pro abortion even in the case of chromosomal abnormalities, and earlier testing meets their needs.

    There is also a population of people who use these tests even though they would never terminate and plan to carry to term no matter the diagnosis. Doctors are in the business of counseling them too. It seems many of them are guided to the tests as a result of getting positive (for a trisomy) results on the more routine screening tests. I don’t see how the tagline on the belly above excludes this population or invalidates the idea that people like earlier testing so they can deal with the emotional aspects of getting an unexpected diagnosis of one of these trisomies.

  4. “Months ahead of the curve” so no one has to know but you and your abortion provider. Sad.

Trackbacks

  1. […] testing done in the first trimester. Indeed, as another NIPS lab highlighted, its testing is “months ahead of the curve” of a woman’s pregnancy showing. And, ACOG, in recommending prenatal testing for Down […]

  2. […] company, Verinata, which developed the cfDNA screen verifi, even marketed its test with the tagline “We’re months ahead of the curve.” The tagline appeared across a photo of a […]

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