For more than a quarter-century, Dr. Drew Pinsky has been a seemingly tireless talker, an interpreter of maladies for audiences on radio, television and the Internet.
The ubiquitous physician with the California-cool vibe, the trim physique and the hipster eyewear has been a television doctor to rehabbing celebs and, in the process, has become a celeb himself.
And now, with the Dr. Drew brand firmly embedded in the national consciousness — at a moment when he regularly spins out best-selling books and hosts or co-hosts not just one, but three shows — Pinsky is becoming a clinical specimen for that most basic of capitalist afflictions: subtle hucksterism. Buried in a gargantuan Justice Department settlement announced this week with the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline are details of a sweet deal Pinsky cut to promote the depression drug Wellbutrin, also known by the name Bupropion.
Pinsky isn’t charged in the Glaxo case, which resulted in a corporate guilty plea and a record $3 billion settlement for fraudulently hawking unapproved uses of the diabetes drug Avandia and the depression medicines Wellbutrin and Paxil. But his entanglement in the case illustrates the ethically murky knitting of physicians (and their bank accounts) with drug companies, a fraught relationship that reformers have sought to address by adding sunshine provisions to the Obama administration’s health-care law, which recently survived mostly intact after a Supreme Court challenge.