Celebrity Rehab Doctor Accused Of Accepting Payola
Dr. Drew Pinsky, best known as "Dr. Drew," host of VH1's controversial Celebrity Rehab reality series from 2008-2011, has been accused of taking at least $275,000 in bribes from the pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline to promote the company's products.
On Thursday GSK was fined $3 billion after admitting that it lavished gifts, kickbacks, resort travel, tickets to sports events and outright payments to doctors throughout the country who promoted and/or wrote unneeded prescriptions for its Paxil, Wellbutrin, and Advair products.
Justice Department prosecutors claimed that GSK paid Pinsky to promote the depression drug Wellbutrin for unapproved uses, including treatment for weight gain, sexual dysfunction, ADHD and bulimia. Without informing listeners that he had received payments from GSK, Pinsky claimed on the air that Wellbutrin could give women 60 orgasms a night.
In a statement, Pinsky said that he had been hired to participate in a "non-branded campaign" that was funded by GSK. "My comments were consistent with my clinical experience," he said. The Justice Department's complaint, however, pointed out that at no time did he disclose that he was being paid by GSK to make them. Two checks to Pinsky, one for $100,000 issued in March 1999 and another for $175,000 issued a month later -- each made a part of the government's complaint against GSK -- were each marked "Honoraria" for "Out-of-Pocket Expenses."
In June an in-house memo to Holly Russell, the drug firm's public relations director, described how Pinsky had "communicated key campaign messages" on talk-show host David Essel's national radio show. A transcript of the show made part of the government's case indicates that when Pinsky was asked what type of medication he would recommend to enable a woman to have as many as 60 orgasms, he replied, "The one that I have most -- I've seen that from in my clinical practice is Wellbutrin. It actually is the one we advocate."