FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Strange Career of Scott Gottlieb

by MARTHA ROSENBERG

As a 33-year-old Wall Street insider known for recommending hot medical stocks, many were surprised when physician Scott Gottlieb was named FDA deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs in 2005.

“Gottlieb has an orientation which belies the goal of the FDA,” said Dr. Jerome Kassirer, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.

“The appointment comes out of nowhere,” said former FDA Commissioner Donald Kennedy.

“Anything but a reassuring signal,” said Time magazine.

As critics feared, soon after assuming the number two FDA position, Gottlieb had to recuse himself from resource planning for a possible bird flu epidemic because of financial ties to Roche and Sanofi-Aventis. He also had to bow out of work related to Eli Lilly, Proctor & Gamble and five other drug companies.

When three people in a multiple sclerosis drug trial lost blood platelets and one died, he called stopping the study “an overreaction” because the disease not the drug might be to blame.

And when FDA scientists rejected Pfizer’s osteoporosis drug candidate Oporia, forecast to earn $1 billion a year, underlings received accusatory emails from Gottlieb.

His on-to-Wall-Street approach succeeded in rushing Chantix, Pfizer’s stop smoking drug, varenicline, to market but a string of 2006 suicides and the violent death of Dallas musician Carter Albrecht leave many asking if that was such a good thing.

“The truth is, the FDA’s required trials reveal limited information,” Gottlieb wrote presciently in an oped in the Chicago Tribune in 2005. “In many cases, it is only afterdrugs are on the market for many years and given to thousands of patients that their true benefits (sic.) are revealed.”

Gottlieb even trashed the definitive Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study that found hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was bad not good for women’s health, saying the results “were rushed to print with a cleverly orchestrated PR blitz.”

Now that he’s left the FDA, Gottlieb is helping sell Lilly’s osteoporosis drug Evista which the company was convicted in 2005 of marketing, off label, for anti cancer and heart disease purposes.

Since Evista has now been approved to reduce the risk of developing some breast cancers writes Gottlieb in an angry oped in the Wall Street Journal in December, doesn’t that transform Lilly’s “speech ‘crime,’ by some measures, into a public service?”

Penalizing Lilly’s off-label promotion of Evista may have proved “fatal” for “patients and doctors who rely on the latest clinical information to make hard decisions,” Gottlieb says implying physicians are lost without input from drug reps with Bachelor of Science degrees.

But of course this is not the first time Lilly has had “free speech” problems.

In October, the FDA told Lilly to stop falsely claiming antidepressant Cymbalta produced “significantly less pain interference with overall functioning” and start mentioning its side effect of liver toxicity.

And documents from its Viva Zyprexa campaign show Lilly marketed the atypical antipsychotic for off label use among elderly patients though an increased risk of death in older patients is a warning on its own label.

Nor is Evista a misunderstood wonder drug.

Launched in 1998 to disappointing results, Justice Department documents reveal Lilly brand managers decided to market off label uses for Evista to boost sales.

And when 20 million women quit HRT in the early 2000’s, marketing Evista (raloxifene), a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), as a kind of anti estrogen or good estrogen made sense.

Like HRT, researchers hinted Evista was an all purpose, youth giving drug, not just preventing and treating osteoporosis but reducing the risk of some types of breast cancer and heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problems in at risk patients.

Dr. Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, head of epidemiology at the University of California, San Diego called a 2002 Evista study, “exciting because it offers new hope in treating heart disease, the biggest killer of women, while at the same time strengthening their bones.”

Barrett-Connor also assured the public that hormone therapy had “no significant effect on the risk for stroke among postmenopausal women with coronary disease” in an article in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, in 2001, paid for by hormone maker Wyeth-Ayerst Research.

Unfortunately, Evista is a little too much like HRT, which, contrary to what appeared in Circulation, causes a 26 percent increased risk of breast cancer, 29 percent increased risk of heart attack, 41 percent increased risk of stroke, and 100 percent increased risk of blood clots according to WHI figures.

Not only does Evista cause lethal blood clots–its warning label says “Increased risk of Venous Thromboembolism and Death From Stroke”–it increases the risk of ovarian cancer say some clinicians.

“Evista induces ovarian cancer in both mice and rats,” wrote Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health in the Chicago Tribune in 1998. “Furthermore, carcinogenic effects were noted at dosages well below the recommended therapeutic level.”

In 2001 scientists at the University of Southern California also found Evista stimulated the growth of ovarian cancer cells.

“In breast and uterine cancer it does not appear to be a problem; in ovarian cancer it may stimulate the cells,” said Dr. Richard Paulson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology referring to laboratory studies.

Evista advertising is also like HRT, relying on ageism, sexism and fear-mongering to sell product with the patronizing tag line, Protect Her Bones Protect Her Breasts, and a female model symbolically covering her breasts with her arms.

No, off label marketing of Evista is not a public service. But Gottlieb’s departure from the FDA might be.

MARTHA ROSENBERG is staff cartoonist on the Evanston Roundtable. She can be reached at mrosenberg@evmark.org

 

 

More articles by:

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John Campbell McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
Roberto J. González
Starting Them Young: Is Facebook Hooking Children on Social Media?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Between the Null and the Void
Andrew Levine
Trump After Bannon: What Next?
John Davis
Mud-Slide
Ajamu Baraka
The Responsibility to Protect the World … from the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Stirs the Methane Monster
Paul Street
Lazy Liberals and “the Trump Effect”
Carmen Rodriguez
Trump’s Attack on Salvadoran Migrants
Mike Whitney
Oprah for President, Really?
Francisco Cabanillas
The Hurricane After Maria
Luciana Bohne
World War I: Crime and Punishment
Steve Martinot
The Ideology of Pepper Spray: Force and Violence in a Can
Martin Billheimer
Beyond the 120 Days of the Silicon Valley Dolls
Patrick T. Hiller
An Olympic Glimmer on the Horizon – North Korea and South Korea Stepping Down the Escalation Ladder
Ron Jacobs
The Vietnamese War: a Different Take
Binoy Kampmark
Fuming in the White House: the Bannon-Trump Implosion
Joseph Natoli
What to Worry About and What Not to Worry About
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto, Bayer and Neoliberalism: A Case of Hobson’s Choice
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Bullying of Cuba
Kenneth Surin
Bigger in Texas
Arturo Desimone
The Untouchable Leader Who Stood Up to Gandhi
Peter Crowley
To Cheerleaders of Iran Protests: Iran is Not Our Enemy, a Sponsor of Terror or a Tyranny
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail