Dr. Drew Pinsky Gets Rich

Dr. Drew Pinsky has become a very wealthy man, at least partly by taking money under the table from drug companies to promote “off-label” uses of drugs that those companies cannot legally promote or advertise. And all of this was revealed by a recent legal settlement by one of those drug companies. Slate reports:

Thanks to the Justice Department, we now know of a Dr. Drew payday large enough to trigger a reverie or two. As part of its monstrous $3 billion settlement with the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the DOJ unsealed documents showing that the dear doctor had taken in at least $275,000 for “services for Wellbutrin.”

Precisely how can one service an antidepressant like Wellbutrin? According to the government’s complaint, Dr. Drew was hired to “deliver messages about [Wellbutrin SR] in settings where it did not appear that Dr. Pinsky was speaking for GSK.” After Pinsky suggested that Wellbutrin might be responsible for increasing a woman’s orgasm rate—to as many as 60 orgasms in a good night—an internal GSK memo noted approvingly that Dr. Drew had “communicated key campaign messages” about Wellbutrin to the public…

In Dr. Drew’s case, the Justice Department isn’t the first to point out that he’s been taking money from pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers. In January, while researching conflicts of interest caused by pharmaceutical payments, I discovered that Pinsky had taken $115,000 from Janssen Pharmaceuticals. When the news went public, Janssen was the first to defend Pinsky, stating that the money was for a program “aimed at educating teens, parents, and educators about the prevalence and serious risks of teen prescription drug abuse in the U.S. …” And Alison Rudnick, a spokesperson for CNN’s Headline News network, home of the show Dr. Drew, emailed me to confirm that, if appropriate, “Dr. Drew would provide an on-air disclaimer if he were to do a story involving Janssen Pharmaceuticals.” Be that as it may, there was no such disclaimer last week when the subject of the Dr. Drew show was gastric bypass surgery—even though the Los Angeles Times had an article in December questioning the propriety of Pinsky’s role as a spokesperson for 1-800-GET-THIN, a lap-band surgery marketing firm. (A source at Headline News says that the lap-band deal had elapsed by the time the gastric bypass show aired, so no disclosure was necessary.)

I see a new reality show: Greed Rehab, with Dr. Drew Pinsky. I’m sure Gary Busey’s agent would love to get him on the show.

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  • lancifer

    …Wellbutrin might be responsible for increasing a woman’s orgasm rate—to as many as 60 orgasms in a good night-

    I’ll have what she’s having.

  • d cwilson

    I think Mitt Romney has found his nominee for Surgeon General.

  • oranje

    Combine Pinsky’s money-grubbing with Chopra’s hilarious vocabulary and I think you’ve got a television winner.

  • shockna

    Drew Pinsky? The creepy doctor on that awful late night radio show, Loveline?

    Somehow, it doesn’t surprise me that someone who dispenses awful advice five nights a week is also into taking paychecks from pharmaceutical companies for apparently illegal purposes.

  • 60 orgasms in a night SOUNDS like fun, but seriously you would completely shred your abdominal muscles. Any more than ~5 seems excessive. Then again, maybe I’m missing out on some kind of crazy mind-blowing shit that y’all are into.

  • Happiestsadist

    I’ve been in *ahem* that neighbourhood myself once or twice, Crommunist, but the walking funny the next day was pretty ridiculous. But then, it wasn’t the result of off-label drugs, it was just a hell of a good evening.

    Though from what I recall about Dr. Drew and his knowledge of sex, I doubt he’d know even the basics of how identify one in a woman.

  • ema

    The as many as 60 orgasms in a good night is nonsense, but Wellbutrin has been used off-label for orgasmic dysfunction in nondepressed patients for quite some time.

    Now, where do I go to collect my $275,000? [shakes head in disbelief]

  • Dr. Drew Pinsky has become a very wealthy man, at least partly by taking money under the table from drug companies to promote “off-label” uses of drugs that those companies cannot legally promote or advertise.

    So in other words, he’s a doctor.

  • F

    But but but the need to do this. Especially for drugs which are prescribed predominantly for off-label uses. Like Neurontin® (Gabapentin). Although, by now, my example has gotten a bunch of off-label uses approved to be on-label.

    Drug companies and their reps (and their fans in medical practice) are some shady-ass people.

    Which is why this cracks me up, aside from the fact that it is a good thing:

    India Moves Even More Of Its Healthcare Away From Western Pharma

  • valhar2000

    So we have finally found a real, honest-to-goodness Big Pharma Shill?

  • jnorris

    Use to call it payola. and those who did never worked in radio or tv again. Well times change. I am sure Dr Drew will be just fine.

  • gingerbaker

    $275,000 just happens to be the one year limit for approved honorarium payments for speakers for Glaxo. Pinski is an MD, and was probably hired – just like thousands of other MD’s – to give legitimate educational programs.

    The FDA has always had – excuse the pun – a hardon for GSK for some reason. Part of this settlement is for inappropriate promotion of Advair for asthma patients who did not need it.

    I worked for Glaxo during the time period of this investigation. I was trained on and promoted Advair during this time period. I can tell you that my training (and promotional activities) for Advair was strictly delineated and of the highest ethical standards. As far as I am concerned, the FDA is completely full of shit about this specific issue. GSK agrees, btw.

    I also promoted Wellbutrin for many years for GSK. I never heard of the 60 orgasms per night figure, and I have grave doubts that any such number came from any clinical study designed to measure such a thing. If Pinsky talked about it, it was most likely an anecdotal experience reported to him. And, according to FDA guidelines, completely appropriate for him to talk about in response to any related question from the audience. Note the report by the sales rep (I did plenty myself – all boilerplate) said that he “communicated key campaign messages” for Wellbutrin, which was likely true and completely unrelated to the 60 orgasms a night figure. Draw your own conclusions about how that was communicated, above.

    Glaxo went overboard to keep the FDA off their back. All presentations by speakers were done with slide sets that were pre-approved by the FDA! Titles of talks needed to be pre-approved, FFS. Physicians who attended the talks hated it – it was boring and pretty useless to their practices. So, they quickly learned to get valuable information from speakers by asking them questions. Speakers could respond to questions with their own slide sets – and their anecdotal experiences were sometimes actually considered quite useful by attendees.

    Pharmaceutical companies – including the two that I worked for over the years – were not paragons of virtue at all times by any means. But many were not the unethical villains so convenient to political memes.

  • lancifer


    Don’t you know that “big pharma” is right behind “big oil” on the progressive hit list?

    There is no room for testimonials of rational accounts of any of these greedy fascist corporations actually acting ethically and in the interest of their customers!

    Now, in penance you must read thirty weeks of archived Think Progress and watch six weeks of The Rachel Maddow Show to atone for your sins.

  • gingerbaker, We have a resident detail [wo]man? That’s great. The range of expertise and experience here never ceases to amaze me.

  • Being a psychologist, the most I ever got was $100 to attend a lunchtime lecture and some nifty refrigerator magnets.

  • lancifer

    Dr X,

    You should consider cashing in on your internet cred. I don’t know what integrity is going for by the pound these days, but you have certainly amassed many kilotons by now.

    A small island in the pacific would probably help sooth your guilty conscience.