PharmedOut In the News - 2015
PharmedOut In the News - 2015
- PharmedOut Project Manager Alycia Hogenmiller and Dr. Fugh-Berman took on the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) for hiding and misrepresenting the extent of industry money in CME. The commentary, in the Journal of Medical Ethics, is in response to an ACCME letter criticizing a PharmedOut article about how pharma used CME to convince physicians that low libido was a disease. The ACCME letter defended the organization’s ability to keep commercial bias out of CME. Our response punctured their arguments and asked the ACCME to improve their standards.
- December 23: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in Bloomberg Business on how "That Drug Coupon Isn’t Really Clipping Costs". She called drug company coupons that promise to curb patients' out-of-pocket costs "insidious" but "a brilliant marketing strategy."
- December 21: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in a Washington Post article by Consumer Reports, "Homeopathic drugs: No better than placebos?" She said that homeopathic drugs are popular because "some trials done 20 years ago seemed promising," but the drugs have not stood up to more rigorous testing.
- December 16th: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in a Washington Business Journal article on the launch of DCRx, specially on a series of modules on medical cannabis.
- November 19th: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in the Mashable article "Doctors are trying to ban pharmaceutical ads that drive up drug costs" discussing "disease branding," wherein drug companies create science-y names for everyday problems – like dubbing heartburn "gastroesophageal reflux disease" to promote Nexium and Prilosec.
- Former PharmedOut interns Antonie Meixel, MD and Elena Yanchar, MD’s paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics “How continuing medical education was used to sell hypoactive sexual desire disorder” was picked up in international news including Wired, Segre, El Diario, La Opinión, Noticia al Dia, Efe Salud, Globo, and Caracol Radio.
- On October 14th, Dr. Fugh-Berman's quote from last year's Slate article on "female Viagra" drug flibanserin/Addyi was picked up in the Alternet article "Addyi: Not the Women's Sex Pill You've Been Waiting For" by Sally Chew. She said, “women are more complicated, it’s not just increasing blood flow" that raises their libido.
- On October 18th, Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in MedPage Today on bias in commercially funded continuing medical education (CME) for doctors. In "CME: Controversial Curricula Draw Fire" by John Fauber, Dr. Fugh-Berman said that "industry funded CME always sells the disease ...[and] in some cases, those diseases are invented."
- September 21: Dr. Fugh-Berman testified to the Federal Trade Commission on the advertising of homeopathic products. She addressed the misleading labeling and promotion of homeopathic remedies, the high potential for a placebo effect, and the importance of randomized controlled trials, stating "there is no alternative science." A video of the panel is available here, and Dr. Fugh-Berman's testimony begins at 1:53:30.
- September 25: Dr. Fugh-Berman published "Flibanserin and Regulatory Failure" on BMJ's Journal of Medical Ethics blog, about how the FDA failed women with its August approval of Addyi, also called "female Viagra". She warns about the dangers of the drug itself, as well as the implication that women should take a drug for her sex life if her spouse is unhappy. "Note that even if the putative patient isn't distressed, she is still eligible for being drugged if her partner is creating interpersonal difficulty. Here's a thought – why not sedate [the partner] instead?" Addyi is expected to go on the market this month.
- PharmedOut's petition asking the FDA to reject the drug was mentioned in many news stories, and Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted widely:
- Washington Post: FDA approves controversial drug for women with low sex drives: "This opens the way for drug companies to pressure the FDA through public relations campaigns to approve more bad drugs: It's bad news for rational drug approval," … August 18th is "a sad day for drug regulation." (repeated by BBC.)
- PBS NewsHour: Why some doctors are wary of the new female libido pill: Watch Dr. Fugh-Berman talk about Addyi with Judy Woodruff and Dr. Mary Jane Minkin of Yale Medical Group.
- USA Today: Low libido? FDA weighs drug to drive women's desire: "Sprout's marketing of flibanserin "is medicalizing a normal condition ... Do we really need to have a corporately determined level of libido?"
- TIME: What 8 Medical Experts Think About 'Female Viagra': "To approve this drug will set the worst kind of precedent — that companies that spend enough money can force the F.D.A. to approve useless or dangerous drugs."
- Al Jazeera: Company behind 'female Viagra' bought for $1 billion: "This company got this drug approved by attacking the FDA on feminist grounds, on saying the FDA was sexist ... but it’s not feminist to demand a lower standard of safety and efficacy for drugs directed at women than at drugs for men."
- Politico: Women's sex drug gets political hard sell: Flibanserin is "useless" and "dangerous" ... Even The Score is "a brilliant marketing strategy that pressures FDA and gets around laws preventing the promotion of drugs prior to regulatory approval."
- Vox: 5 reasons to be skeptical of the new "female Viagra": "The drug can cause low blood pressure, so that really worries me if you give the drug to women who have a cardiac condition."
- CBC News: Flibanserin, 'female Viagra,' distracts from real causes of low libido: critics: "Their suffering is real, but the women who testified had a lot of different stories, and some of those stories were very good reasons for having low libido, including having six children, having a one-year-old, having had breast cancer treatment."
- Buzzfeed: How Big Pharma Used Feminism To Get The “Female Viagra” Approved: This was the most aggressive public relations campaign I’ve seen for a drug prior to approval ... Cloaking themselves in feminism was brilliant. It was such a novel, brilliant argument."
- DrugWatch: Despite Hopes, “Female Viagra” Might Fall Short of Expectations: "The FDA turned down this drug twice because the risks outweighed the benefits ... The science hasn’t changed, except that there is more reason to be concerned about risks."
- USNEWS: Drug execs behind female libido pill have run afoul of FDA: "This [drug] company already has a history of unethical marketing ... If approved, I think this drug will be widely prescribed, and we would see an epidemic of adverse effects."
- August 31: Dr. Fugh-Berman and Alessandra wrote an article in Impact Ethics about the truth behind the "feminist" campaign that led to the Addyi's approval.
- August 24: Former PharmedOut project manager Alessandra Hirsch, now a medical student at the University of Illinois, made her TV debut on Chicago Tonight (PBS): Controversy Over The Little Pink Pill. Alessandra was on a panel weighing in on Addyi's approval.
- "Female Viagra" flibanserin took the spotlight again this month when an FDA advisory panel recommended approval of the drug. Dr. Fugh-Berman was widely interviewed and quoted about the problems and misinformation surrounding flibanserin in the Associated Press, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News (twice), New York Times, Diane Rehm Show, Today Show, Chicago Sun-Times, MinnPost, Vox, Jezebel, Bustle, and more. Her takeaway message and warning to the FDA is echoed in many of the articles, that "to approve this drug will set the worst kind of precedent — that companies that spend enough money can force the FDA to approve useless or dangerous drugs.”
- May 28: Science 2.0 covered the flibanserin issue with an article. Dr. Fugh-Berman is quoted as saying, "It's not sexist for the FDA not to approve a drug that it doesn’t believe is effective or safe. It’s a classic marketing technique to first create a problem, and then sell the solution, and that's what’s going on here."
- May 19: The American Pharmacists Association wrote about the FDA hearing on homeopathic products and Dr. Fugh-Berman's testimony: “Homeopathic products, even if they are not truly homeopathic, get a pass" from FDA, she said, and named some examples.
- May 13: Dr. Fugh-Berman was interviewed for CBS Chicago about flibanserin, also known as the "female Viagra." Although the drug's manufacturer, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, cites sexism as the reason the FDA has not approved flibanserin, Dr. Fugh-Berman cites the science: “15 percent of the women in flibanserin trials dropped out because of side effects of sedation and nausea and fatigue," and "it hasn’t been tested long-term.”
- May 12: PharmedOut discovered that D.C.'s AccessRx law, which requires pharmaceutical companies to report payments made in the District, was in jeopardy of being repealed during a D.C. Council Budget Markup meeting scheduled for May 14th. What followed were two days of intense work and outreach.
- April 30: She also spoke about the issue as a guest on Forum with Michael Krasny on KQED Public Radio.
- April 30: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in an Times Free Press story on how Medicare spends more money on branded drugs compared to generics, and how changing this practice might save money in the program. She commented on certain branded drugs prescribed to seniors, including the antipsychotic Abilify, that have been shown to be dangerous for that age group.
- April 20: Dr. Fugh-Berman testified at an FDA hearing on homeopathic product regulation. Her remarks, especially regarding the lack of evidence on homeopathic products' effectiveness and the misleading practice of stocking them next to proven remedies, were picked up by CNN, U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, Washington Examiner, and MedPage Today.
- March 19: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in the NPR story "Why Is Insulin So Expensive?" New treatments are often sold at a higher price, but they "aren't always better," Dr. Fugh-Berman said. "In government-funded studies that have compared older drugs to newer drugs, often older drugs come out looking better or equal to newer drugs."
- March 15: Dr. Fugh-Berman was interviewed about PharmedOut's work for C-SPAN's show "Q&A". Watch the video here.
- March 11: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on California's new policy aimed at curbing excessive antipsychotics prescribing for foster kids in order to control behavior. Prescribers now have to take extra steps to demonstrate the need for these patients to use antipsychotics, and as a result, thousands of requests have been rejected due to lack of medical necessity. “It really shows the power of prior authorization,” Dr. Fugh-Berman said, "Just indicating that ‘we’re watching you’ makes a difference.”
- March 12: The story was also picked up by California Healthline
- February 23: Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman’s interview about PharmedOut CSPAN’s Q&A with Brian Lamb, February 23, 2015
- February 18: The Boston Herald quoted Dr. Fugh-Berman's contrast of flibanserin with Viagra: "It’s not a very effective drug. It has to be taken every day and we don’t know the long-term effects. ... Viagra and similar drugs actually work for erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction is not libido. It’s really different."
- February 17: Also this month, Katie Couric did a story on flibanserin for Yahoo. Dr. Fugh-Berman was interviewed, saying "Low desire is not a medical condition, and in fact the term hypoactive sexual desire disorder has been eliminated from the latest ‘Diagnostic [and] Statistical Manual. Low libido can be caused by a number of different things, including diabetes, depression, other medical conditions, medications — particularly antidepressants and relationship problems."
- February 16: "Female Viagra" is back in the news! Dr. Fugh-Berman was interviewed for NPR's All Things Considered about the unapproved drug that claims to increase female sexual desire, flibanserin. Listen to the show or read the article.
- February 12: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in the Seattle Times on the exorbitantly high price of new hepatitis C drugs: "This drug tends to be talked about, like, ‘we can cure hepatitis C,’” she said, "but up to a quarter of people [treated] can relapse.”
- January 23: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in Paul Thacker's article "Database may uncover conflicts of interest for TV doctors" in Columbia Journalism Review. Pharma payment data has revealed gifts made to Dr. Jonathan LaPook of the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, Dr. Jennifer Ashton of Good Morning America, Dr. Keith Ablow of Fox News, and others. "Viewers deserve to know whether an expert is being paid by a company, even if the link between the company and what they are saying isn’t clear," Dr. Fugh-Berman said.
- January 14: Dr. Fugh-Berman participated in the Capitol Hill panel discussion on "The Physician Payment Sunshine Act: What Have We Learned? What More Must Be Done?", hosted by the National Coalition on Health Care. The panel of health care experts contributed different perspectives to this issue, and Dr. Fugh-Berman call the Sunshine Act "a success" that could go further; namely, to expand disclosure requirements to advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, and organizations, who are increasingly becoming the main recipients of industry payments. Watch CSPAN's coverage of the event here, and read coverage by MedPage Today, and Medill On The Hill.