You’ll have heard how some industries are more “recession-proof” than others. Supermarkets ride out the bad times pretty well, because in the end everybody has to eat, and in a downturn we try to keep our food costs as low as possible. For the same reason, fast food stores also do well during recessions, whereas real restaurants (not McDonalds) and florists for instance, often go the wall very quickly as most people don’t consider those expenses to be essential.
The sex industry has usually done OK during hard times (sorry about the pun), and the theory behind this is that even when people are suffering financially they still like to get their rocks off regularly.
So you might be surprised to hear that some parts of the sex industry have been having problems lately. The first of these is the Advanced Medical Institute (AMI), who promote a nasal spray supposedly designed to treat both erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. They’re responsible for those billboards you might have seen with the words “Want Longer Lasting Sex?” in huge letters.
Those billboards have led to some clashes between AMI and advertising standards groups both here and in Britain. Last year the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau somewhat prudishly forced the company to cover up the word “sex” on hundreds of billboards around the country, while the British campaign has also generated heaps of complaints.
Less well known, however, are the two investigations currently underway by different government agencies following claims that AMI’s wonder-product simply doesn’t work. The NSW Office of Fair Trading, and Consumer Affairs in Victoria, are looking into the company’s practices after receiving complaints from customers.
The spray’s main component is a drug called apomorphine, used mainly for treating Parkinson’s disease. While it is thought to have some usefulness in fighting erectile dysfunction it’s widely considered to be much less effective than Viagra etc.
But regardless of the effectiveness of apomorphine, AMI’s nasal spray remains clinically untested and totally unproven.
More sinister still is AMI’s so-called ‘money-back guarantee’. In order to qualify for a refund if the nasal spray doesn’t work (AMI’s services can often run into the thousands of dollars) patients have to agree to undergo three additional rounds of treatment to see if they can’t get it right. The last treatment? Self-administered injections directly into the penis!! In other words: if the quacks can’t cure you the first time, you have to give them three more goes, including needles, before you get your money back. The Sydney Morning Herald reported a case in which a one-armed man was told he would have to give himself injections if he wanted any chance of seeing his money again.
None of this commotion or outcry is unfamiliar to AMI’s director, ‘Dr’ Jack Vaisman, or “Doctor Droop” as some call him. For a start, he’s not even a registered medical doctor and his run-ins with medical regulators have been frequent and nasty. In 1996 Vaisman’s then-company “On Clinic Australia” pleaded guilty to 34 charges of importing drugs not registered with Australia’s. In 2002 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission moved against AMI for “misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to the advertising and promotion of treatments for erectile dysfunction (impotence) and premature ejaculation.”
In December last year, "censored" versions of the Australian billboard ad campaign were replaced with a "bonk longer" slogan which prompted further complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau. The campaign ran for just two weeks before it too was pulled. Finally, in January this year, the British authorities ordered the company to withdraw all their UK billboards. It appears that this part of the sex industry mightn’t do so well in 2009.