2017 News

PharmedOut In the News - 2017

December 2017

  • Celebrating PharmedOut's ten year anniversary in the Georgetown Medicine Magazine! The article covers the origins of PharmedOut and the 2017 conference, featuring a wonderful photo of our PharmedOut interns. “Part of why I’m attracted to the work of PharmedOut is that it talks about information that medical students often don’t learn about,” said PharmedOut intern Grace Lee, currently a medical student at UCLA.
  • December 16: "You get out of a lot of safety testing just by calling it a cosmetic. It’s quite a loophole," Dr. Fugh-Berman said in a Buzzfeed News article on the drug ingredients hidden in eyelash enhancers. These serums may come with side effects, like cheek hair, that consumers are often unaware of, "It’s a drug, it has drug effects, and can cause inflammation," said Fugh-Berman.

November 2017

  • November 10: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in a New York Times editorial on public-private partnerships to create non-addictive opioid alternatives. "Abuse-deterrent is a marketing term used to mislead," said Dr. Fugh-Berman. "At least half of prescribers think that abuse-deterrent means less addictive." The editorial hit a nerve, drawing critical responses from the heads of PhRMA and Purdue Pharma.
  • November 6: Senator Kamala Harris (D-Ca) announced her investigation of Alkermes (maker of Vivitrol) for the overpromotion of Vivitrol for opioid addiction treatment. The investigation was covered in YubaNet, Endpoint News, and the Houston Chronicle. "Alkermes has taken unethical drug promotion to new depths by enlisting judges, law enforcement personnel, and legislators to favor Vivitrol over proven treatments," said Dr. Fugh-Berman.

October 2017

  • On October 25, the AccessRx team (Susan Wood, Joanna Podrasky, Meghan Monagle, Janani Raveendran, Tyler Byshee, Alycia Hogenmiller, and Adriane Fugh-Berman) published "Influence of pharmaceutical marketing on Medicare prescriptions in the District of Columbia" in Plos One. The paper was covered in the New York Times, US News, Pharmalot, Washington Business Journal, BMJ, MedPage Today, HealthNewsReview, MinnPost, FierceHealthCare, LifeScienceDaily, and Telegraph India.
  • October 19: Governor Chris Christie championed public-private partnerships to combat the opioid epidemic, while also enriching the companies in his state and his biggest campaign donors. "Public-private partnerships shouldn't consist of spending public funds to maximize private profits," said Dr. Fugh-Berman to USA Today.
  • October 18: HealthNewsReview examines the new collaborations between industry and newspapers, including Boston Globe's Brand Lab partnership with Pfizer. "The last bastion of objectivity should be journalism,” said Dr. Fugh-Berman.
  • October 12: Grace Lee, the PharmedOut 2017 conference student abstract slam winner, was interviewed, along with Dr. Fugh-Berman, in Medscape Today about how continuing education was used to sell testosterone. Ms. Lee said the CMEs emphasized, falsely, "That male hypogonadism is highly prevalent, underdiagnosed, and undertreated. It's associated with many chronic diseases and conditions, and testosterone treatment can improve many comorbidities."

September 2017

  • The PharmedOut team spoke with conference-goers at the International Conference for Nutrition in Medicine, where Dr. Fugh-Berman presented on overpromotion of drugs for preventive medicine.
  • Dr. Fugh-Berman presented at the California Society of Addiction Medicine's conference on social psychology techniques used to manipulate physicians' therapeutic choices and overprescription of opioids.
  • September 18: While Senator McCaskill was investigating pharmaceutical companies, New Jersey Governor Christie was getting cozy with those same companies. On September 18, Governor Christie announced the public-private partnership between NIH and opioid manufacturers to develop non-addictive pain medicine and new medication-assisted treatment. “We shouldn’t be asking the industry that caused the opioid epidemic to solve it. They are unlikely to come up with any solutions that don’t make themselves a profit. The answer to the opioid epidemic is not more pills," said Dr. Fugh-Berman in The Inquirer.
  • September 12: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in a Philadelphia Inquirer article about Senator McCaskill's (D-MO) opioid roundtable on pharmaceutical marketing practices to promote opioid use that has fueled the current opioid epidemic.

August 2017

  • August 17: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in a Chicago Tribune article on pharmaceutical company payments to physicians. She said, "Drug reps do not see physicians unless they are affecting their prescribing, and pharmaceutical companies do not pay physicians unless they are affecting their prescribing."
  • August 14: Our 2016 Impacts Report on the Promotion of Diabetes Drugs in Washington DC was featured in an interview with Susan Wood in Medscape Today. "We only had about a 15% increase in [diabetes] prevalence, and a 350% increase in costs for diabetes drugs," said Dr. Wood.
  • August 3: Alkermes continues its aggressive marketing tactics by lobbying drug court judges to make Vivitrol the only drug offered in medication-assisted treatment. Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in an NPR story about this strategy, "It would be great if the [FDA] went after this," she says. "I think it does fall under their jurisdiction, but I wouldn't rely on that being enough."

July 2017

  • July 29: Before swallowing a pill, make sure to check up on their adverse effects. Dr. Fugh-Berman is quoted in a Washington Post article about how doctors often fail to mention side effects to patients before prescribing a drug.
  • July 17: The List" – a list of more than 100 health experts who are free of industry conflicts – was featured on HealthNewsReview and on the Health News Watchdog Podcast. The List was started in 2007 by Jeanne Lenzer and Shannon Brownlee; the team now includes Gary Schwitzer and Adriane Fugh-Berman. Designed to help reporters and government committees identify and contact unconflicted, unbiased experts instead of using experts provided by industry. The List is an important resource.
  • July 12: Although patients like drug coupons to reduce their out-of-pocket costs for expensive medications, payers end up being soaked for the costs. Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in a MarketWatch article about the strategies insurance companies are beginning to implement to reduce drug spending.
  • July 6: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in a Yahoo News article about the aggressive marketing tactics of Alkermes to position Vivitrol inappropriately as the first line drug for opioid use disorder. “Vivitrol was not doing very well in the market until they came up with this strategy of targeting judges and lawmakers,” said Dr. Fugh-Berman.
  • July 4: If you are tired of hearing the long list of side effects at the end of a drug commercial, you can check out this DailyMail article about how the FDA is working to change drug ads. "Drug companies should not be choosing which side effects to list," Fugh-Berman says. "That's why ads for erectile dysfunction say 'may cause four-hour erection', because that doesn't sound too bad to guys! Unlike other side effects such as heart attack."
  • July 3: Paul Basken covered Lisa Cosgrove's presentation at the PharmedOut conference in the Chronicle of Higher Education. If you missed Paul Basken's last article on the 10-year retrospective of PharmedOut, you can read it here.

June 2017

  • June 28: Should TV ads list fewer side effects of drugs? Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in a Stat news article.
  • June 26: PharmedOut's Hasting's Center piece on the current whereabouts of 'Even the Score' was covered in the National Post and was mentioned in a piece on Healthline. The piece was also described in another Hasting's Center piece about the pharma funding of ADHD patient advocacy groups.
  • June 20: The Chronicle of Higher Education covered the 10 year history of PharmedOut in an interview with Dr. Fugh-Berman. Asked about the future, Dr. Fugh-Berman said, "I’m hoping that 10 years from now there will be no pharmaceutical company or medical-device manufacturer or biotech manufacturer funding any medical education."
  • June 18: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in an Atlantic story about increasing healthcare and drug costs. “Co-pay programs are meant to mitigate criticism of high drug prices, deflect legislation on drug pricing, get around payer restrictions and get patients on expensive drugs they will stay on for a long time."
  • June 14: The "A's" (Alycia Hogenmiller, Alessandra Hirsch, and Adriane Fugh-Berman) published a new piece in Bioethics Forum about the status of the sham consumer campaign "Even the Score", devised by industry to sell Addyi (flibanserin), or more commonly known as 'the female Viagra'. The piece was covered in Bioedge and the London Free Press.
  • June 12: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in an NPR article on the state lobbying efforts of Alkermes, to position Vivitrol as the drug of choice for medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction – while denigrating proven treatments methadone and buprenorphine.

May 2017

  • Come one, come all to read our just-released AccessRx report on the Impacts of Pharmaceutical Marketing Report on Diabetes in the District of Columbia, available at the DC Department of Health website.
  • May 30: The new promotional items from pharmaceutical companies are tablets and TVs in your doctor's office that are paid for by industry. Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in a Forbes article about how office tech is used for marketing.
  • May 16: Do you find things funny when others don't? When you start crying, to you find it difficult to stop? Do you sometimes have a funny thought out of the blue? Then you might have Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA). But don't worry – drugs can help you! Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in a Kaiser Health News article about PBA and how the disease is being marketed to sell Nuedexta (and it's working).
  • May 12: You know about the famous purple pill, but do you know about what adverse effects it may cause? Dr. Fugh-Berman talked about how heartburn morphed to gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) to sell proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) in an ABC10 video and story.
  • May 3: On May 3, Dr. Fugh-Berman was featured in a BBC World Service broadcast about testosterone. Listen to the feature here.

April 2017

  • April 25: In an innovative legal manuveur, the Cherokee nation is suing opioid manufacturers and pharmacies in tribal court. Dr. Fugh-Berman spoke with KAZU 90.3 about the suit. "Legal action is one of the only effective measures we have against pharmaceutical companies and distributors. Companies don't like lawsuits. It's a great way to get information into the public domain," she told the radio station.
  • April 14: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in International Business Times about President Trump's pick as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (or more commonly called the nation's "drug czar.") Representative Tom Marino (R-PA) has previously endorsed policy that made it more difficult for DEA agents to go after opioid distributors. “Rep. Marino has made it very clear he is on the side of opioid manufacturers,” said Dr. Fugh-Berman.
  • April 6: Adriane Fugh-Berman and Nick Mendola testified at the FDA Public Meeting on Patient-Focused Drug Development for Sarcopenia. Both argue that age-related muscle mass loss is not a disease that needs drug treatment, but a normal condition best treated with exercise. The transcript is available here. Dr. Fugh-Berman's testimony starts on page 117 and Nick Mendola's testimony starts on page 122. The meeting was covered in Congressional Quarterly's Roll Call by Andrew Siddons.
  • April 5: Dr. Fugh-Berman participated in a POLITICO panel on Trump's FDA, discussing the future of drug regulation, "real-world data", and surrogate markers. Video of the panel is available here.

March 2017

  • March 29: Senator McCaskill (D-MO) announced an investigation in opioid manufacturer. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will be asking for marketing materials from opioid manufacturers, including both direct-to-consumer and physician marketing. The letter sent to Purdue Pharma, Johnson and Johnson, Insys, Mylan, and Depomed references PharmedOut's not-yet-published study on the use of continuing medical education to promote fentanyl for breakthrough pain.

February 2017

  • February 2: Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in a Buzzfeed story on companies increasing the price of naloxone (a lifesaving drug used to reverse an opioid overdose) to $4,100 by packaging it in a talking, easy-to-use device.

January 2017