GlaxoSmithKline Pays Up, and Outs Dr. Drew at the Same Time

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
Posted on

This story should get under your skin. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the drug company that makes Wellbutrin (bupropion), has agreed to pay $3 billion to the federal government. GSK plead guilty to charges of illegally promoting two antidepressants and withholding key safety information about the diabetes drug Avandia.

As part of the settlement, the drug company admitted promoting the drugs Paxil (paroxetine) and Wellbutrin for off-label uses and failing to report safety data about the diabetes medication Avandia. Yuck.

In another twist to this case, Dr. Drew – who hosts Loveline and his own show on CNN – was one of the doctors paid a ridiculous sum to promote Wellbutrin as the antidepressant of choice for young people who want preserved sexual function.

Here are some other sordid details:

GSK sponsored dinner and spa programs to encourage physicians to prescribe the drug for children and adolescents, even though it was not approved for pediatric use.

GSK paid physicians to promote off-label uses of Wellbutrin ranging from weight loss to the treatment of sexual dysfunction.

People should be disturbed by this, recognizing what GSK did along with the doctors who promoted uses of these medications they weren’t approved for. All for money.

Why does this bug me so much? Dr. Drew graduated from residency at USC, where I currently work as faculty. Unlike Dr. Drew, I don’t receive money from drug companies and USC discourages this as a policy. Dr. Drew’s role in talking to his Loveline audience, who are unaware of his paid status, bothers me. Similar to the audience tuning in to him on Headline News every night, he was speaking to people who were relying on his medical authority. Among other things, the general public got to hear Dr. Drew assert that Wellbutrin can make women multiorgasmic, which is not true. In exchange he received $275,000 in two months.

What do you think?

Dr O.

Drugs featured in this story

Filed under