PharmedOut In The News

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  • On August 3, our ethnographic study of the intimate relationships between surgeons and medical device representatives, Salespeople in the Surgical Suite was published in PLoS One. Authored by Bonnie O'Connor, Fran Pollner, and Adriane Fugh-Berman MD, the study is the first published exploration of the experiences, expectations, and reservations about relationships between device reps and surgeons to be told from the persepctive of the participants. See Fodder, below, for an in-depth summary of the piece.

  • In July, Pfizer agreed to a written code of conduct with the City of Chicago for marketing opioids. Pfizer promised not to promote opioids off-label and to disclose in its promotional materials that opioids have a risk of addiction – practices that all opioid manufacturers should already be doing. Dr. Fugh-Berman believes that Pfizer has other motivations behind this PR move. “It’s in Pfizer’s interest to highlight the addictive properties of opioids because they have a competing product under development,” she told the Boston Globe. “When a company comes out slamming a particular class of drugs, it’s generally because they have a competitor in the wings. Think of this as prelaunch marketing, which can start long before the launch.” The story was also covered in the Washington Post,Chicago Tribune, and CBS News.


  • Dr. Fugh-Berman presented a seminar on Addyi (flibanserin) and debated ob-gyn Holly Thacker on the “Role of Flibanserin in the Treatment of HSDD in Women” at the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology meeting on May 14. Family Practice News interviewed Dr. Fugh-Berman and Dr. Thacker after the debate and got their opposing views on the topic.

  • How Big Pharma Uses Charity Programs to Cover for Drug Price Hikes, is a fascinating, widely distributed investigative report by Ben Elgin and Robert Langreth of Bloomberg News on how pharma funds co-pay charities in order to force Medicare to pay for expensive drugs. Dr. Fugh-Berman said that the donations are designed to “deflect criticism of high drug prices. Meanwhile, they’re bankrupting the health-care system.”
  • Jeanne Lenzer of the BMJ covered the Lown conference, including the workshop led by Roy Poses and Adriane Fugh-Berman. 

  • At the Lown Institute's 2016 Conference on April 16-17, Dr. Fugh-Berman held a workshop with Roy Poses MD of Brown University and the Foundation for Integrity and Responsibility in Medicine. Slides for their presentation, "Overtreatment and Deceptive Drug and Device Promotion in the Context of Health Care Corruption" are available here, and highlights from the entire conference can be seen here.

  • Dr. Fugh-Berman's quote in the February 29 New York Times article on Addyi's extremely modest effects was reprinted in The IndependentJezebel,HNGN, and Mic
  • On March 2, the American Council on Science and Health quoted Dr. Fugh-Berman in an article poking fun at Valeant (now the lucky owner of Addyi): "This company already has a history of unethical marketing," she said. "If [Addyi is] approved, I think this drug will be widely prescribed, and we would see an epidemic of adverse effects."
  • On March 3, Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in a Portland Tribune article about oncologist Vinay Prasad. Prasad is the co-author of "Ending Medical Reversal: Improving Outcomes, Saving Lives," and many articles, including an article in JAMA Internal Medicine showing that a third of speakers purportedly representing cancer patients at industry conferences were receiving money from pharmaceutical companies.
  • Dr. Fugh-Berman wrote a letter to the editor in the March issue of the American Journal of Nursing, explaining all the context nurses should need to actively recommend against Addyi.

  • PharmedOut's 2015 Annual Report is now available! It took longer than usual to compile due to our staggeringly long list of activities last year, so thank you for your patience!
  • In a JAMA study of 5,900 women, researchers found that flibanserin/Addyi/"female Viagra" is less effective than its manufacturer, now Valeant, has claimed. (Color us shocked.) The drug, which has seen feeble sales since its approval last fall, resulted in women having 0.5 more sexually satisfying experiences per month, rather than the 0.8 additional sexually satisfying experience originally submitted. 

    In a February 29 New York Times article on the study, Dr. Fugh-Berman said, "an additional half a satisfying sexual encounter a month — is that meaningful? I think only the women can answer that, but perhaps they already have with their lack of enthusiasm for getting prescriptions."

  • PharmedOut's December tussle with the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), which has obscured how much industry money is in CME, was picked up by Medical Marketing & Media on Dec. 30th and included in their weekly roundup of "Five Things for Pharma Marketers to Know".
  • On Jan. 5th, Dr. Fugh-Berman was quoted in Pacific Standard's "The Little Pink Pill That Sparked a Feminist War" about the "female Viagra" drug flibanserin/Addyi. She said that low libido is going to become a condition where not only are women going to think, ‘Oh, there’s something biologically wrong with me,’ [but also] ‘I have to try multiple treatments to fix myself." And while some women have claimed the drug's approval is part of the feminist movement, Dr. Fugh-Berman noted that "If the woman’s libido is lower than the guy’s, why’s that her problem? ... Maybe he’s oversexed. All of these labels are subjective and relational.”
  • Back in 2013, GlaxoSmithKline announced that they would stop paying physicians to promote their drugs, and has instead hired in-house physicians to do the job. On Jan. 7th, the Financial Times quoted Dr. Fugh-Berman on how while this avoids a conflict of interest, companies should just get out of CME.
  • On Jan. 12th, Dr. Fugh-Berman again spoke about Addyi to Refinery29. In "'Female Viagra' Is Here — But Few Women Are Using It", she said that "Certainly there are women that have low libido, but that can be caused by many different things, including medications, such as the birth control pill and antidepressants and blood pressure medicines, for example."