Thursday, August 27, 2015

GlaxoSmithKline, Dr. Drew, sex advice and Wellbutrin

GlaxoSmithKline paid Dr. Drew $275,000 to promote its antidepressant drug Wellbutrin to help with sexual dysfunction.

GlaxoSmithKline, Dr. Drew, sex advice and Wellbutrin

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There are doctors and then there is Dr. Drew, who helps with sex and relationship problems on TV and radio and now the web, of course.

Knowing his popularity, one of GlaxoSmithKline's earlier incarnations, Glaxo Wellcome, paid Dr. Drew Pinsky $275,000 for promotional help with the drug Wellbutrin, according to a document posted by the Department of Justice.

That document shows copies of invoices for payments of $100,000 on March 31, 1999 and $175,000 on April 30, 1999.

A link to the document is here.

The collection of exhibits was part of Monday's announcement that Glaxo was pleading guilty to criminal charges and paying $3 billion to settle allegations of inappropriate marketing of drugs, failure to notify the government about safety concerns and improper reporting of prices for calculating Medicaid rebates.

Wellbutrin was only approved to treat depression in adults, but the government alleged that Glaxo sales representatives and other company officials made great efforts to illegally promote the drug for many other problems, including sexual dysfunction.

In some ways, Glaxo was trying to make a great circular argument: Depression can cause sexual dysfunction, and vice versa, so take Wellbutrin, either way.

In the consolidated complaint filed by whistleblowers in federal court in Boston, former Glaxo Regional Vice President of Sales, Roger Hawley, is said to have coined a Wellbutrin catchphrase that was institutionalized as a tool to promote the drug. During a meeting of sales reps in Las Vegas on Dec. 4, 2000, Hawley told the reps there were "five reasons to get a commitment from a physician to prescribe Wellbutrin SR: 1. feel better, 2. lose weight, 3. stop smoking, 4. get more energy and 5. enjoy increased libido....We need to let physicians know that Wellbutrin SR is the 'Happy, Horny, Skinny drug...."

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About this blog
David Sell blogs about the region's pharmaceutical industry. Follow him on Facebook.

Portions of this blog may also be found in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section.

Reach David at dsell@phillynews.com or 215-854-4506.

David Sell
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