Dr. Drew Pinskey -- most well-known as just Dr. Drew, host of the radio show "Loveline" and current producer of VH1's "Celebrity Rehab" -- has been identified as one of the doctors GlaxoSmithKline may have paid to promote its drugs for unintended purposes.
Earlier this week, the drugmaker was issued $3 billion in fines -- the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history -- for criminal and civil violations involving 10 drugs that are taken by millions of people. The U.S. Department of Justice said Monday that the company plead guilty to promoting drugs like Paxil and Wellbutrin for unapproved uses.
Wellbutrin -- an anti-depressant -- is the drug that federal prosecutors allege Dr. Drew was paid by the pharmaceutical company to promote for its libido-enhancing effects. As Forbes points out, the feds included as part of their evidence a transcript from Dr. Drew's appearance on the national radio program "David Essel -- Alive!" On that show, a woman explained that taking the anti-depressant, which unlike others, reportedly increases libido instead of decreasing it, helped her have multiple orgasms. Dr. Drew explained at the time, "What I think she was amazed about was it just suddenly started and that kind of thing most typically happens from medication, frankly.” He later specifically mentions Wellbutrin, saying "[it] actually is the one we advocate, one of the things we suggest people do if they’re getting a decrease in their libido or decrease in their arousal which typically occurs in the serotonin re-uptake inhibitor medication.”
Also included as evidence by the prosecutors are invoices from Dr. Drew's PR firm to GlaxoSmithKline for $275,000 in just two months during 1999 for promoting the drug “in settings where it did not appear that Dr. Pinsky was speaking for GSK.”
Although some may acknowledge this practice is shady but maintain patients have the ability to think critically about what doctor's are recommending for them, in Dr. Drew's case, the Daily Beast recalls a reporter writing of the relationship expert and addiction therapist in 2000, “When Dr. Drew Pinsky talks—about sex or drugs or relationships—young people listen.”
The Daily Beast also makes note that Dr. Drew, although mentioned in the case against GlaxoSmithKline, was not formally charged with anything.
In a separate article, Forbes included a comment from Dr. Drew of these accusations by the feds:
In the late 90s I was hired to participate in a 2 year initiative discussing intimacy and depression which was funded by an educational grant by Glaxo Wellcome. Services for the non branded campaign included town hall meetings, writings and multi media activities in conjunction with the patient advocacy group the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA). My comments were consistent with my clinical experience.
Dr. Drew also hosts shows called "Life Changers" on the CW and "Dr. Drew" on HNL.
This GSK settlement is the latest in a string of settlements related to drug companies putting profits ahead of patients. In recent years, the government has cracked down on drugmakers' tactics, which include marketing medicines for unapproved uses. While doctors are allowed to prescribe medicines for any use, drugmakers cannot promote them in any way that is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"Let me be clear, we will not tolerate health care fraud," Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said Monday during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(H/T: Huffington Post)