The overselling and lack of evidence for TAMPAP

…in the face of promotion by media doctors.

My blog on the upheld ASA complaint over at the Guardian and a news story also.

Update 19/10/12

I don’t know how many women bought HPV Tampap test kits, at 30 a throw. But they may have been influenced to do so by this video, featuring Dr Dawn Harper and Dr Christian Jessen.

“As a trusted professional Christian, do you think the Tampap test could actually save your life?”

“Absolutely. I think if you’ve had a negative test result that is very reassuring, that is a great reassurance and peace of mind for those patients, but if you’ve had a positive result, that is a very important early warning sign that could save your life in the future.”

The ASA have decided this isn’t true, based on evidence. Unfortunately it seems that misconceptions of the role of HPV testing remain. For example. Dr Jessen tweeted this evening that

@DoctorChristian
IT WILL REPLACE SMEAR TESTS ON NHS IN FEW YEARS “@Sionedwards: .@DoctorChristian – what is the evidence base for advising HPV testing?
@DoctorChristian @Sionedward I think you need to read up on this one Dr Christian !!! It will not replace the Smear test…Cytoscreener ldn

In fact, the ongoing pilot – and it is a pilot – is based on this study, which looked at HPV identified through material obtained at cervical smear. If women test negative, they will be returned to the usual cervical screening programme. If they test positive, they will be referred for colposcopy. Having an HPV positive test will mean a recommendation from the NHS to have cervical examinations, and will not lead to a recommendation to avoid them. 
Whether or not women wish to have cervical screening is another issue, and I hope that the new information leaflets about cancer screening will ensure that people are able to make better choices.  In the meantime, doctors have to be careful about disclosing conflicts of interest when promoting a non evidence based 30 quid test to the public.

7 Responses to “The overselling and lack of evidence for TAMPAP”

  1. steve October 21, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    General Medical Council

    Conflicts of Interest:Guidance for Doctors:

    “73. You must be honest in financial and commercial dealings with employers, insurers and other organisations or individuals. In particular:
    a. before taking part in discussions about buying or selling goods or services, you must declare any relevant financial or commercial interest that you or your family might have in the transaction”

    “75. If you have financial or commercial interests in organisations providing healthcare or in pharmaceutical or other biomedical companies, these interests must not affect the way you prescribe for, treat or refer patients”

    Need I say more?

  2. Jackie June 29, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

    I think it is outrageous that today there is still no option for a woman to perform her own smear test in her own home! They are disgusting, undignified and totally archaic! It is time for doctors to get their fingers out their mulberry handbags and actually start empowering patients! That might save more lives than sending endless letters that simply get binned. There was a very useful pilot study by a student ten years ago which the NHS rejected! So stupid!

  3. Sally February 7, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

    I’ve only recently come across this discussion, and I don’t see what the problem is with HPV self testing kits. The ASA upheld your complaint (A12-203992) that Tampap claimed there was no need for a smear test if you used their product, and the result was negative, but I find that they are right to say this. If you have an HPV negative result, exactly what is the point of undergoing a smear test? What can it find if you don’t have HPV? For many women it is a valid option, and the £45 a valid trade off to not have to undergo the speculum test.
    I have read that the Netherlands will be offering the Delphi Screener as from January next year. If it’s OK for the Dutch, why is it so problematic in this country?

    • margaretadmin February 8, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

      hello, the issue was of the advertising: the ads said the tests could save lives, but delaying death from cervical cancer via screening is only possible if one goes on to have further investigation and treatment (as recommended) as a result of a positive test. The use of hpv as a primary tool to distinguish who needs cytology is already ongoing within the NHS pilots and I am sure that if it is cost effective it will be adopted. I have come across situations where women who (for many reasons) don’t want to have a smear have done a self hpv and had a negative result and found the result reassuring in their own individual risk situations. For other women who test positive they will end up with a dilemma, and I think it’s fair to know that before paying for the test. I suspect that over the next few years the NHS will move to primary HPV screening, and it may be that self tests (trials ongoing) end up showing they are as reliable or cost effective. I have no issue with evidence based and fairly informed self testing – I do have an issue with hype and of not laying out the potential outcomes together with pros and cons.

      • Sally February 9, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

        Thank you very much for your reply. I hope it is not too long before HPV self-testing will become the first test, but where does this leave girls like my daughter, who have had the 3 doses of the HPV vaccine? Presumably, they would never be offered the HPV test once vaccinated, because it would always come up as negative so it would be pointless for them to do it?

        • margaretadmin February 10, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

          the length of time the vaccination lasts for remains uncertain….the other problem is that cervical screening via HPV self testing would mean no more visual examination of the cervix, and HPV causes most, but not all, cervical cancers – this is quite useful.
          http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs380/en/

          • Sally February 12, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

            Thank you very much for the informative replies.

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