Dr. Drew Under Fire for Taking Drug Company Money

By Ann Oldenburg, USA TODAY

CNN Headline News host Dr. Drew Pinsky is in a bit of a pickle about his past.

The Wall Street Journal reports that back in 1999 the TV doc extolled the virtues of GlaxoSmithKline’s popular antidepressant Wellbutrin to his Loveline radio audience, saying he prescribes it and other medications to depressed patients because it “may enhance or at least not suppress sexual arousal” as much as other antidepressants do.

But he didn’t tell them that he received payments from Glaxo totaling $275,000 for “services for Wellbutrin.”

The info was uncovered this week in a complaint filed by the U.S. government in federal court last October against the pharmaceutical company. The documents were disclosed as the U.S. Justice Department announced a $3 billion criminal and civil settlement with Glaxo over illegal drug marketing and other matters.

Doctors can prescribe drugs however they see fit, but it is against the law for companies to promote drugs for uses not approved by the FDA. Wellbutrin’s label doesn’t say anything about its sexual effects one way or the other.

Pinskey said in a statement to the WSJ that he was “hired to participate in a two-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 multimedia activities in conjunction with the patient advocacy group the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA). My comments were consistent with my clinical experience.”