An Abbott Androgel Lawsuit was filed this week in federal court by Stephen Benn against Abbott Laboratories and Abbvie, the makers and distributors of Androgel.
The companies advertised to convince millions of men that natural aging – mood swings, slowing down, lowered libido, that sort of thing – is a sign of testosterone deficiency and can be solved with a testosterone supplement such as Androgel.
Abbott and Abbvie aren’t the first drug companies to trumpet a natural problem or human challenge and diagnose it all at once, then sell people the solution for it. They are some of the more successful companies to do so. Diagnosis of Low T have increased enormously with or without proper testing, driving annual Androgel savings to more than $1.37 billion.
A Questionable Quiz
On its web site, Abbott posted a special quiz that its creator said was scribbled on toilet paper. He called it a “crappy” test. Other drug companies have posted similar tests, but so far as we know this is the first one to actually be called “crappy” by its creator.
Benn’s lawsuit petition reads: “Defendants misrepresented that AndroGel is a safe and effective treatment for hypogonadism or ‘low testosterone,’ when in fact the drug causes serious medical problems, including life-threatening cardiac events, strokes, and thrombolytic events.”
“Disease Awareness” Campaign
It further states that defendants engaged in “aggressive, award-winning direct-to-consumer and physician marketing and advertising campaigns for AndroGel.” Further, it accuses defendants of an aggressive unbranded “disease awareness” campaign to entice men into believing they could be suffering from low testosterone or “Low T.'”
The defendants’ ad campaign included the creation and operation of the website www.IsItLowT.com, said the complaint.
The quiz asked men (we haven’t checked if it’s still on the site) whether they have experienced a recent deterioration in their ability to play sports. Do they fall asleep after dinner? Lack energy? Feel sad or grumpy, or crappy? (Just kidding about that last one).
A Crappy, Sexy Quiz
The complaint states that Dr. John Morley, director of endocrinology at St. Louis University School of Medicine, developed the quiz in exchange for a $40,000 grant to his university. Morley, the complaint states, was directed to make the quiz “somewhat sexy.”
Marketing made Easy
Benn says in his suit: “Dr. Morley drafted the questionnaire in 20 minutes in the bathroom, scribbling the questions on toilet paper and giving them to his secretary the next day to type up. Dr. Morely admits that he has ‘no trouble calling it a crappy questionnaire’ and that it is ‘not ideal.’”
The complaint adds that symptoms raised in the quiz can all be due to natural aging, but defendants convinced millions of men to discuss testosterone replacement therapy with their doctors, “and consumers and their physicians relied on defendants’ promises of safety and ease.”
The Benn petition calls this “disease mongering” – a term coined by Georgetown University Medical Center’s Dr. Adriend Fugh-Berman.
“However, says the complaint, “consumers of AndroGel were misled as to the drug’s safety and efficacy, and as a result have suffered injuries including life-threatening cardiac events, strokes, and thrombolytic events.”
Benn and four other plaintiffs filed their lawsuits Monday, Feb. 3, one day after a physician-written Op-Ed column in The New York Times declared Low T to be overdiagnosed. The author also referenced an earlier study that showed testosterone therapy may double the rate of heart attack in older men, and triple it in younger men with a history of cardiac problems.