Who knows how many men or their spouses or significant others have visited the marketing and propaganda site: IsItLowT.com? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?
The site is funded by a pharmaceutical company, AbbVie (which was recently spun off from Abbott Laboratories). AbbVie manufacturers the most popular testosterone replacement therapy drug, AndroGel, with more than a billion dollars in sales in a year.
But you wouldn’t know it by looking at the “Is It Low T” website. The only reference to AbbVie is some fine print on various pages, such as at the top of the page that says merely, “Supported by AbbVie”.
There’s no reference to AndroGel at all. Obviously, the site is designed to sell AndroGel, but only indirectly. What the site is really designed to do is sell the disease.
It’s what’s known as an “unbranded site”. The sole purpose is to convince you that you (or the man in your life) has this “disease” called “Low T”.
And the site provides a handy little quiz so you can self-diagnose and ask your doctor about this “disease.” But it turns out that this handy little quiz was created in 20 minutes while the author, Dr. John E. Morley, was in the bathroom (yes, in the bathroom for 20 minutes) and
authored scribbled the quiz on toilet paper, which he gave to his secretary to transcribe (editor’s note: Ewwww).
For this, Dr. Morley was paid $40,000 by the Dutch drug company that commissioned the test.
Oh yeah – and the quiz was designed so that you would fail. Just take a look.
- Do you have a decrease in libido (sex drive)?
- Do you have a lack of energy?
- Do you have a decrease in strength and/or endurance?
- Have you lost height?
- Have you noticed a decrease in your enjoyment of life?
- Are you sad and/or grumpy?
- Are your erections less strong?
- Have you noticed a recent deterioration in your ability to play sports?
- Are you falling asleep after dinner?
- Has there been a recent deterioration in your work performance?
Answering “yes” to as few as one of these questions will “qualify” you as a candidate for having “Low T”.
Most of the questions invoke symptoms that are so general that they could apply to many men who are clinically depressed or simply having a bad day – or even to women, says Dr. Adriane J. Fugh-Berman, an associate professor at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington.
“These are tests that everyone will fail – that is the idea,” says Dr. Fugh-Berman, who directs PharmedOut, a Georgetwon project that educates doctors about drug marketing claims. “Do you feel tired after dinner? Depends how long after dinner. We all do eventually. It’s called sleep.”
– Selling That New-Man Feeling [NYT]
According to a New York Times report, the Dutch drug company instructed Dr. Morley, “Don’t make it too long and make it somewhat sexy.”
The Endocrine Society, a professional medical association warned in 2010 that there little evidence supporting self-diagnosing quizzes.
Turns out that Dr. Morley likely agrees:
“I have no trouble calling it a crappy questionnaire,” he says. “It is not ideal.”
Testosterone supplements, like AndroGel, have been approved only to treat a very specific condition – hypogonadism – along with documented low testosterone levels.
“None of the testosterone products have indications for weight loss, increasing energy or improving mood,” said Andrea Fischer, a spokeswoman for the F.D.A.
But “unbranded” advertisements like the “Is It Low T” web site are not subject to strict FDA scrutiny.
How good is the testosterone industry at not only selling their products, but selling the disease? Award winning.
A marketing trade magazine named the AndroGel marketing team as “the all-star large pharma marketing team of the year” for its promotions of AndroGel and its unbranded marketing to simply sell the disease.
As these companies have been pushing and pushing and pushing this “disease” and their products to treat it, researchers have begun to look and see what else these “supplements” may be doing to men across the country. And the results are scary.
Separate studies have found a substantial increase in heart attack, stroke, and embolism in men – particularly those 65 and older – who have received testosterone replacement therapy, like AndroGel or Axiron.
There have been a number of lawsuits filed involving men who have experienced heart attack or other heart-related events after taking AndroGel. Hundreds of additional lawsuits are expected across the country. The attorneys at Langdon & Emison are currently investigating and evaluating these claims. Contact us for a free evaluation of your case.
- Selling That New-Man Feeling [Natasha Singer at NYT]
- Testosterone gets marketing push, but long term unknown [Matthew Perrone at Associated Press via USA Today]
- A Push to Sell Testosterone Gels Troubles Doctors [Elisabeth Rosenthal at New York Times]
© Copyright 2014 Brett A. Emison
Follow @BrettEmison on Twitter.
Brett Emison is currently a partner at Langdon & Emison, a firm dedicated to helping injured victims across the country from their primary office near Kansas City. Mainly focusing on catastrophic injury and death cases as well as complex mass tort and dangerous drug cases, Mr. Emison often deals with automotive defects, automobile crashes, railroad crossing accidents (train accidents), trucking accidents, dangerous and defective drugs, defective medical devices.