Marcia Cross, who plays Bree Van De Kamp on ABC's "Desperate Housewives," has a ways to go to catch up to U2's Bono on the cause front, but in the last few years she's made some strides to get there.
Cross has most recently championed child hunger with UNICEF, and in 2008, she testified before Congress to mandate longer hospital stays for women after a mastectomy, ending the so-called "drive-through mastectomies," according to press releases.
The actress also raised skin cancer awareness in a campaign funded by Proctor and Gamble, and in 2006, she went on a mission to let people know about how she used to suffer from migraines.
GlaxoSmithKline, makers of the migraine medicine IMITREX, funded her role as a spokeswoman. However in resulting media coverage, Cross focused much more on describing the pain and the triggers than a strong pitch on the drug specifically.
"Most people -- and I hear this a lot -- they'll say, 'Oh I have a migraine,' and I'll ask if they take medication," Cross told the Los Angeles Daily News in 2006. "It's so easy to ignore it because it just goes away. You forget about it and think you don't have it. I'm not even sure I did until I was diagnosed."
Cross declined comment for this article, but GlaxoSmithKline responded with a written statement.
"Well-known individuals, who have a health condition and can speak from personal experience, can be very effective in bringing attention to a specific disease and motivating patients to visit a professional to discuss the disease and treatment options," wrote Robin C. Gaitens, a representative for GlaxoSmithKline. "Often these conditions are underdiagnosed or undertreated and can be disabling."
In 2002, the media got wind that film legend Kathleen Turner's campaign for rheumatoid arthritis was underwritten by Wyeth, the manufacturers of Enbrel.
Turner had appeared on "Good Morning America" that year and mentioned her personal struggle with the painful and degenerative condition. During the interview, Turner directed viewers to a Web site to learn more about the condition, but only later did it come out that Wyeth ran the Web site, according to reporting by Salon.com.
Turner's publicist said she was unavailable for comment on the article.
At issue wasn't necessarily the connection, but that Turner and Wyeth had failed to tell the media outlets she had a financial tie to the Web site. Soon after, Time Magazine, editorials in medical journals and other publications questioned the medical ethics of paying Turner and other celebrities in discreet drug advertisement campaigns.
"What I think is that it crosses a bit of an ethical barrier when you don't know when a person is on the payroll," said Cassels. "It's one thing to be a spokesperson, but tell people that you're being paid."
The same year that Turner faced criticism for her unpublicized link to Wyeth, actress Lauren Bacall went on NBC's "Today" show to talk about macular degeneration -- an eye disease that can lead to blindness.
Just like Turner, Bacall failed to mention during the interview that the drug company Novartis, maker of the macular degeneration treatment Visudyne, had paid for her awareness work. Unlike Turner, Bacall did not suffer from the disease. Instead, Bacall was speaking about a close friend, according to reporting by Time magazine.