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The grey area of “fertility tech” being mis-sold as contraception

51app 2024; 384 doi: (Published 16 February 2024) Cite this as: 51app 2024;384:q54
  1. Mun-Keat Looi
  1. The 51app

Chelsea Polis, who won the 2023 Maddox prize early career award, explains how she was sued for identifying a mis-sold medical device—and why, in an age of disinformation, researchers and clinicians must call out wrongdoing when they see it. Mun-Keat Looi reports

When Chelsea Polis questioned the evidence behind a fertility tracking thermometer, she soon found herself a defendant in a lawsuit.

In 2020 Polis, an epidemiologist, was sued for publicly sharing her scientific and regulatory concerns about the marketing of Daysy, a fertility device marketed as a contraceptive.1 The case was eventually dismissed, a flawed paper was retracted from the scientific literature, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forced the manufacturer of Daysy, Valley Electronics, to change its marketing language.

Polis now advocates for laws to protect free speech for scientists and others. In November 2023 she was awarded the Maddox prize early career award for “her courage in challenging false marketing claims made by medical device manufacturers, and for her analysis of the flawed research used to market a fertility tracking thermometer as a contraceptive, which she communicated effectively in the face of lawsuits and threats.”

Who is Chelsea Polis?

Chelsea Polis studied medical anthropology at Brown University with a focus on teenage female sexuality and reproduction and conducted research in Madagascar. She has a doctorate and post-doctoral fellowship from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Between 2011 and 2014, she served as senior epidemiological adviser to the Office of Population and Reproductive Health at the US Agency for International Development. She was principal research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute from 2014 to 2021, leading collaborations with scientists from Ghana, Malawi, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

Since 2022 she has been senior scientist, epidemiology, at the non-profit Center for Biomedical 51app at the Population Council, working towards improving …

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