Low T, CME, and conflict of interest

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In another in a continuing series of stories about doctors, drug companies and conflicts of interest, John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes about the disease-mongering promotion of low testosterone or “Low T.” Excerpts:

“A rash of television commercials in recent months have told millions of middle-age men that their diminished sex life and somber mood may be the result of low levels of testosterone.

Setting the stage for the ads was a series of medical journal articles that first appeared four years ago. The articles, which were sponsored by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, read more like promotions than rigorous research, touting the benefits of testosterone and downplaying the risks.

While the TV commercials were intended for consumers, the medical articles were written for thousands of doctors who could earn continuing medical education credit by reading them. Presumably, they also would write more testosterone prescriptions.

Both the ads and the articles were paid for by Solvay Pharmaceuticals, the company that dominates the testosterone therapy field and which allegedly conspired to pay off generic drug makers to keep their testosterone products off the market.

The campaign seems to have paid off.

Over the last few years, prescriptions for testosterone, especially Solvay’s AndroGel, have boomed despite concerns that it may increase the risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. Aside from the potential health risks, there is a lack of science that the expensive drugs provide real benefit for middle-age and older men whose testosterone levels are declining as a result of normal aging. …

UW was an active participant in the testosterone surge. Solvay paid about $1?million to fund UW-sponsored doctor education in 2005, 2006 and 2007 such as dinner meetings around the country and newsletters designed to reach more than 50,000 physicians. UW directly received about $115,000 of that amount.”

Read the full article.

Here’s how Solvay bought space on WebMD to promote AndroGel in an ad that is meant to look like normal editorial content.

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