October 19, 2015 — Industry-funded continuing medical education (CME) courses promoted testosterone for “off-label” purposes, according to an investigation by MedPage Today/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Critics say the CME courses funded by drug-makers are designed to sell the disease — medicalizing a normal state like declining testosterone levels in aging men, inventing a marketing name for the condition (“Low T”), and convincing doctors that it is under-diagnosed and therefore under-treated.
One course highlighted in the investigation was led by Dr. Martin Miner, with materials that declared testosterone was “no longer ruled out” in men with active, low-grade prostate cancer — directly contradicted by the FDA-approved label warning that testosterone should not be given to men with prostate cancer.
Several other courses implied that testosterone could reduce adverse events. Dr. James Stein reviewed the content of some courses and highlighted two examples of problematic claims:
- Heart of the Matter: Hypogonadism Management with Testosterone Therapy: Course funded by Abbott, Eli Lilly, and Endo claims “mounting evidence” links low testosterone to cardiovascular disease and death.
- Male Hypogonadism: Improving Recognition and Refining Management: Course funded by Eli Lilly explores the link between low testosterone and diseases like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s.
In 45 states, physicians are required to take CME courses to maintain their medical licenses. The courses are supposed to help doctors stay up-to-date on medical issues. Instead, many courses are thinly-veiled marketing materials funded by drug-makers.
According to the Watchdog Report, income for the courses hit a near-record $2.7 billion last year, of which drug and device companies paid for $676 million (about 25%).
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