Mrs. Kanye West is pitching this drug to other pregnant women dealing with the awfulness of morning sickness. (Photo: Kim Kardashian/Instagram)
Over the years, Kim Kardashian has been a spokeswoman for everything from diet pills (prompting a $5 million lawsuit) to her signature clothing line and fragrance.
Her latest endorsement deal is for a prescription drug called Diclegis, a pill given to pregnant women to fight the nausea and vomiting of morning sickness during their first trimester, something an estimated 50 percent of all moms-to-be deal with.
Related: Morning Sickness: 5 Myths Debunked
In an Instagram selfie posted on Monday, Mrs. Kanye West, currently carrying baby No. 2, posed with a bottle of Diclegis. “OMG. Have you heard about this?” she captioned the snap to her nearly 40 million followers. “As you guys know my #morningsickness has been pretty bad. I tried changing things about my lifestyle, like my diet, but nothing helped, so I talked to my doctor.”
Her doctor prescribed Diclegis, Kardashian continued, which made her feel a lot better. Then she added, “And most importantly, it’s been studied and there’s no increased risk to the baby.”
That post has raised eyebrows, particularly on Twitter, where commenters questioned whether celebrities should be promoting pregnancy drugs. One Twitter user said the idea made her “uneasy”; another wrote, “This is not good!” And on Instagram, Kardashian was scolded for promoting a so-called miracle pill and a “crap product.” Oddly, Kardashian’s post comes less than a month after she declared at a festival in Cannes, France, that her Instagram page was off-limits for paid promotional efforts.
It begs the question: Is the safety of Diclegis in question, or has it ever been?
The answer: Yes, the drug has a controversial backstory. Though Diclegis has been available since 2003, it used to be known as Bendectin. In the 1970s and 1980s, Bendectin, whose main ingredients were vitamin B6 and an antihistamine, was a popularly prescribed medicine for morning sickness.
“Bendectin worked well and was prescribed regularly,” Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of ob-gyn at Yale University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Half the women in the 1970s were probably taking it.”
That included a woman whose child was born with a heart defect. That mom blamed the defect on the drug and sued the manufacturer, which chose to settle the case out of court but did not admit any guilt, Minkin says.
“After that, other women who took Bendectin threatened to also sue the company, saying that the drug caused their child’s birth defect, even though there was no data linking the drug to problems,” Minkin says. Facing the possibility of so many lawsuits, the manufacturer yanked it from the market, despite the fact that nothing indicated it was unsafe, she adds.
Diclegis is a newer version of the same formula, and it continues to be prescribed frequently, Gil Weiss, MD, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Northwestern University and an ob-gyn in Chicago, tells Yahoo Parenting. “The allegations that it was harmful and unsafe were unfounded,” he says.
Even the FDA has approved it as a Pregnancy Category A drug, meaning that “adequate and well-controlled studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus in the first trimester of pregnancy,” according to the FDA. No evidence shows that it is harmful in other trimesters.
But for women who don’t like the idea of taking medication during pregnancy (or aren’t sure they can trust a product endorsed by Kim Kardashian — Skechers Shape-ups, anyone?), Diclegis is not the only option.
“If a woman dealing with morning sickness doesn’t want to take medicine, we’ll try other things, like drinking ginger tea, lollipops, and staying away from foods that have strong smells, which can be a nausea trigger,” Weiss says. Popping vitamin B6 is also an option.
Should those not work, however, Weiss says he’ll recommend medication. “It’s very effective and can ease symptoms very well,” he adds.