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Dr. Drew Took $275K to Promote Anti-Depressant Pills

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If you think the way prescription drugs are marketed in the U.S. are a little shady, this tale might add a bit of fuel to your fire. GlaxoSmithKline, known more casually as Glaxo, has been challenged by the federal government regarding their drug marketing practices, and one very high profile doctor was involved.

The Wall Street Journal explains that Los Angeles-based radio and television personality Dr. Drew Pinsky was paid $275,000 by Glaxo for "us[ing] the airwaves to extol the virtues of [Glaxo]'s antidepressant Wellbutrin."

That information was revealed via "documents [that] were disclosed this week as the U.S. Justice Department announced a $3 billion criminal and civil settlement with Glaxo over illegal drug marketing and other matters." This recent disclosure comes after the government did a nine-year investigation of the company.

Pinsky was paid by Glaxo in 1999, and spoke on air on the syndicated radio show "Loveline" about Wellbutrin in June of that year.

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Pinsky said the following in an emailed statement regarding his involvement in his paid endorsement for the anti-depressant, as published by the WSJ:

"In the late '90s I was hired to participate in a two-year initiative discussing intimacy and depression which was funded by an educational grant by Glaxo Wellcome," one of the companies that later merged to form GlaxoSmithKline. He added that the campaign "included town hall meetings, writings and multimedia activities in conjunction with [a] patient advocacy group." He added, "My comments were consistent with my clinical experience."

Only one of many doctors named in the settlement, Pinsky's angle on the drug was its effect--or lack thereof--on sexual desire and libido. He guided listeners to a website about depression and intimacy that was registered by Glaxo, and that today "redirects to a Wellbutrin site—www.wellbutrinxl.com—established by GlaxoSmithKline."

Glaxo did not comment on Pinksy's paid endorsement.

Pinsky, a board certified addiction medicine specialist and Pasadena native, has been appearing on "Loveline," since 1984, when it was just a small advice show on KROQ 106.7. He is well-known as the main medical professional on shows like "Celebrity Rehab," and "Sober House," on VH1.

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LAist Interview: Dr. Drew Pinsky