PharmedOut In The News

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  • On October 14th, Dr. Fugh-Berman's quote from last year's Slate articleon "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."
  • On September 21st, 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.
  • On September 25th, 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.
  • At the end of June, PharmedOut published "Hypoactive sexual desire disorder: inventing a disease to sell low libido" in the Journal of Medical Ethics. It discusses the concept of "condition branding" and how the company that developed the "female Viagra" drug flibanserin created continuing medical education (CME) modules on hypoactive sexual desire disorder to prepare the market for flibanserin.
  • On July 13th, PharmedOut (in conjunction with the New View Campaign) sent a pair of letter to FDA Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff asking him to support the integrity of the drug approval process by rejecting flibanserin. Hundreds of researchers and clinicians signed on as well. You can read the letters here.
  • "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.”
  • On May 13th, 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.” An FDA Advisory Committee meeting, open to the public, will be held June 4th.
  • On May 19th, 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.
  • Science 2.0 covered the flibanserin issue with an article on May 28th. 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."
  • In the April issue of Family Medicine, Dr. Fugh-Berman co-authored "Pharmaceutical Industry Interactions in Family Medicine Residencies Decreased Between 2008 and 2013: A CERA Study". The authors surveyed program directors of U.S. family medicine residencies to see how family medicine residencies' interaction with the pharmaceutical industry changed in the past five years, and compared the results from between 2008 and 2013.
  • On 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.

    She also spoke about the issue as a guest on Forum with Michael Krasny on KQED Public Radio.
  • On April 30, Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in an Associated 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. 
  • On March 11th, 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.”

    The story was also picked up by California Healthline.
  • On March 15th, Dr. Fugh-Berman was interviewed about PharmedOut's work for C-SPAN's show "Q&A". Watch the video here
  • On March 17th, "The Drug That Cried 'Feminism'" by Dr. Fugh-Berman, Project Manager Alessandra Hirsch, and volunteer staffperson Rebecca Holliman was published on the Hastings Center's Bioethics blog.
  • On March 19th, 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."

Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman’s interview about PharmedOut
CSPAN’s Q&A with Brian Lamb, February 23, 2015

  • On February 15th, American Family Physician published Dr. Fugh-Berman's counterpoint on testosterone deficiency screening, "Should Family Physicians Screen for Testosterone Deficiency in Men? No: Screening May Be Harmful, and Benefits Are Unproven". It is one in a series of pro/con editorials discussing controversial issues in family medicine.
  • On February 12th, 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.”
  • "Female Viagra" is back in the news! On February 16th, 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.
  • 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."
  • And, on February 18th, 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."

  • On January 14th, 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, Medill On The Hill, and Fierce Practice Management
  • On January 23rd, 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. 
  • On January 12th, Project Manager Alessandra Hirsch published "Modern Day Mengele" in the Hastings Center's Bioethics forum. The editorial focused on the similar "perversions of medical procedures" conducted by the CIA torture program and those of infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.
  • Also on January 12th, a letter to the editor by PharmedOut conference co-chair Dr. Anthony Scialli was published in response to an article about the pressure on pregnant women to have C-sections. As Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at GWU, Dr. Scialli explained how he advises patients who want to avoid a C-section and said that the rate of the procedure should be far lower than the World Health Organization's goal of 10 to 15 percent.