Most of my readers are keenly aware of the explosion in the marketing of testosterone products in recent years. Now a joint investigation from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today uncovers the key role played by continuing medical education (CME) programs funded by companies that make prescription testosterone products.
The story, by reporters John Fauber, Coulter Jones and Kristina Fiore, opens this way:
In 2012, a faculty member at a CME activity funded by the company that marketed the nation’s top-selling testosterone product told physicians they could safely prescribe testosterone to men with prostate cancer.
This advice was offered despite treatment guidelines — and the product label itself — warning that testosterone should not be given to men with prostate cancer.
The same physician who led the online course has participated in at least 19 CME activities since 2010, part of a wave of courses touting the dubious virtues of testosterone treatment — all bankrolled by companies that manufacture the products.
According to the article industry now spends about $676 million a year to support CME programs. These payments are not now publicly reported– “a process that effectively works as an end run that shields those payments from the federally-mandated Open Payments system”– but this may change next year.
For now, though, “these payments to physician faculty comprise the dark money of medicine.”
The courses are part of a massive drug-company push over the past 10 years to make testosterone products, which reached $2.1 billion in sales in 2014, a central part of men’s health.