Between 2013 and 2016, Avanir Pharmaceuticals paid nearly 500 doctors to speak about or endorse its drug Nuedexta, according to data provided by the government. Of those 500 doctors, at least one dozen had been disciplined by their state medicine boards. The doctors in question have either been suspended, put on probation, fined or had their licenses revoked.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Nuedexta as a treatment method for the condition known as pseudobulbar affect (PBA). PBA causes those affected to laugh and cry uncontrollably. After various investigations, it was discovered that some doctors were prescribing Nuedexta to dementia patients to help control their behavior.
“Being prescribed medication for a condition you do not have can be dangerous,” George Tragos of Law Offices of Tragos, Sartes & Tragos, said. “It can lead to tragic results, such as serious injury or even death, especially if the prescribed drug interacts with other medication the patient has been taking.”
The government data shows that from 2013 to 2016 Avanir and Otsuka, its parent company, paid doctors close to $14 million to consult on the drug, promote the drug, or provide other services related to the drug. It is legal for doctors to be paid to speak about or promote a specific drug.
Avanir released a statement about the investigation into the doctors they hired to promote the drug Nuedexta saying “[they] rely on the judgments of medical boards, who have responsibility for determining whether a physician is fit to practice and may maintain a medical license. [They] stand proudly by [their] work and are dedicated to the patients [they] serve.”
One of the speakers hired by Avanir for Nuedexta is currently being investigated by the federal government for reportedly accepting kickbacks for prescribing the drug.
The doctor, based in Cleveland, has been accused of falsely diagnosing patients with PBA to prescribe the drug for a return of Medicare coverage for off-label use. The doctor has also been accused of prescribing the drug at dosages well beyond what is recommended by the FDA.