Dr. Drew Was Paid $275,000 by Glaxo to Help Market Wellbutrin
Dr. Drew endorses the Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) antidepressant ‘Wellbutrin’. Everybody loves Dr. Drew Pinsky because he was a celebrity sex adviser on radio and TV. Remember ‘Loveline’? Dr. Drew took many opportunities to extol the virtues and the lack of unfortunate side effects for Wellbutrin. He said it “may enhance or at least not suppress sexual arousal as much as other antidepressants do.”
Was Dr. Drew sincere in saying these things, or was he doing what GSK paid him to say? The big pharma giant did make two donations to Dr. Drew’s bank balance to the tune of $275 thousand in return for “services to Wellbutrin”
The relationship between GSK and Dr. Drew only came to light this week when the U.S. Justice Department revealed a $3 billion settlement with GSK after criminal and civil drug marketing activities, among other things. Is there anything wrong in this? Dr. Drew’s statement goes like this, “In the late ’90s I was hired to participate in a two-year initiative discussing intimacy and depression, which was funded by an educational grant by Glaxo welcome,’” He insists “My comments were consistent with my clinical experience.”
[box type="note"]The federal government’s case against GSK has been in the making for nearly a decade and definitely all the way back to when Dr. Drew was promoting the antidepressant in ways that GSK did not have permission for, from the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA.[/box]
As well as coughing up the settlement, GSK are admitting to illegal drug marketing activities and failure to disclose vital drug safety information to the FDA. The huge corporate fine will end the government’s claim against GSK that they bought favourable medical opinion for cash and favors. Opinions that went way beyond prescribing drugs but also pushed them for uses outside of their FDA specified usage and prescribed labeling.
All doctors are free to prescribe medication ‘consistent with their clinical experience’, but it is against the law to promote medications for purposes beyond what the FDA approves them for. This kind of drug promotion is called ‘off label’ marketing. It is off-label of Dr. Drew to claim that Wellbutrin is less likely to make the taker sexually dysfunctional than other brands of antidepressants. GSK are saying nothing yet about their cash link to Dr. Drew.
What GSK is saying is,”The complaint to which you refer concern’s events in 1999, 13 years ago. It does not reflect what would be allowed in GSK today. The government has made many allegations and legal conclusions concerning Wellbutrin that GSK disputes. GSK admits, however, that during the period from January 1999 to December 2003, there were some occasions on which certain GSK sales representatives, speakers, and consultants promoted its antidepressant Wellbutrin to physicians for uses, which were not FDA-approved in violation of federal law.”
None of this does any good for the public’s faith in either GSK or the medical profession. Time will tell if the case is a fatal blow to the trust patients need to have with their doctors.