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More Products You Probably Don’t Need, the Menstrual Edition

September 19, 2007

A preliminary report was released yesterday from the Interscience Conference on Anti-microbial Agents and Chemotherapy on “a novel surface coating for tampons may cut the risk of menstrual toxic shock syndrome.” The idea is that the special coating would reduce levels of the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that can lead to toxic shock syndrome.

This coated tampon is not yet available in stores, and the findings have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. The research was sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, which owns the o.b. tampon brand. Why do you likely not need it? Because rates of tampon-related TSS are extremely low in this country. One of the researchers was quoted as saying “menstrual TSS is still a problem, with about two to three cases per 100,000 women per year.” According to CDC data, however, the total incidence of TSS in the U.S. in 2005 was 0.7 cases per 100,000 people – the subset of menstrual TSS would likely have an even lower incidence.

Much like the genetic testing advertisements I wrote about on Monday, this is another attempt to sell a product that will not confer a real benefit to most women by playing on their fears of disease. Although overall incidence of TSS seems to have risen very slightly over the past 10 years, it’s hardly enough to mean most women need to switch their tampon brand.

The reports do not indicate whether new coated tampons would be more expensive than traditional types. Of course, you could always switch to a Keeper, Moon Cup or DivaCup, and avoid the cost of tampons altogether.

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