Monday, 8 November 2010

Vicks - up next: the cure for cancer

Proctor & Gamble have finally done something no other scientists have thus far been unable to do - cure the common cold. Or so they imply:

Stop Your Cold with First Defence

When you catch things early, they're easier to deal with.

So when you feel the first signs of a cold[1], Vicks First Defence catches the virus and helps stop the cold developing.[graphic of Vicks nasal spray attacking viruses][2]

Vicks First Defence - helps[3] stop your cold before it takes hold. [current]

Attack is the best form of defence

Picture the scene. You’ve got a holiday coming up and, just when you should be getting excited, you feel the dreaded twinge of an approaching cold. Great.

Don’t panic! Vicks has the solution - First Defence Micro-Gel Nasal Spray. Applied as soon as you feel the first warning signs of a cold[1]. The unique Micro-Gel attacks the virus where it first takes hold[2] – at the back of your nose, traps it, disarms it and helps to remove it. When people used Vicks First Defence Micro-Gel Nasal Spray at the first signs of a cold[1], 77 per cent said they didn’t develop a full blown cold*[4]. So next time a nasty cold threatens to ruin a holiday, don’t surrender – send it packing!

Always read the label/leaflet.
*2006 consumer satisfaction survey of 90 UK users.[5]

[1] The first signs of a cold typically occur 2-5 days after catching the virus which causes the common cold. (But, as the link points out, it could be as soon as 10 hours.) The problem, of course, being that once you've started showing the first signs of a cold, the virus has been replicating busily in your body, so...

[2] It's impossible for a nasal spray to attack the virus as shown in the nose when the virus has already taken hold in the rest of the body.

[3] Weasel words.

[4] How many of those 77%[5] would have developed a full blown cold had they not been using Vicks? From the link above:
Sneezing and coughing are the body's natural efforts to eject the viruses. Fever reduces the virus' ability to reproduce inside the nose. It does seem to be likely that in those people who only experience symptoms for a few days, the immune system is functioning well.

[5] 77% of 90 UK users is... 69 people. Out of an adult population of 45,457,163 (Number of voters on 22 Feb 2006.) For the mathematicians at P&G, that's 0.00015%.

Clearly Vicks products do mitigate the symptoms of colds, but I find it highly unlikely that they can do anything about the causes of those symptoms.


  1. Usually you can extrapolate from the x% of y sample size to the whole population - but only when y is a reasonbly large value and does not contain a single or limited type of element. But when the sample size is 90 the error factor is so large as to make any extrapolation useless. The same as the sample size on the cosmetics adverts.

  2. "The same as the sample size on the cosmetics adverts. "

    I keep meaning to pick up on one of those, but there's so many to choose from with their rejuvenating properties of dihydrogen monoxide, and the ever-lasting effects of natrium chloride, that I've never gotten round to picking on the absurdity of the statistics they use.

    Not that it's beyond the wit of (say) Nivea's advertising department to bend statistics in their own special way:

    "Nivea Visage Anti-Wrinkle Q10 Plus helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles." [A large group of the woman's friends were then shown arriving and surprising her with a birthday cake.]

    "So it's no surprise that 37% of women feel more attractive now than they did ten years ago." [text on screen: 37% of 12,267 women interviewed]

    The 12,267 interviewed were not (interviewed as) customers using Nivea products. Sadly I couldn't find a video of the banned advert, otherwise that would have been another post for today.