Kardashian Selfie Isn't the First Celebrity Drug Endorsement to Endure Federal Scrutiny


Kim Kardashian can't keep up with pharmaceutical advertising.

Kim Kardashian can’t keep up with pharmaceutical advertising.

The FDA recently issued a warning letter to drug manufacturer Duchesnay USA regarding Kardashian’s endorsement of Diclegis, a morning sickness medication.

On her Instagram account, Kardashian endorsed Diclegis without mentioning any risks or potential side effects associated with the drug’s use. She even wrote that the drug had “been studied and there was no increased risk to the baby.”

While the FDA’s action against Kardashian’s endorsement is certainly generating a lot of buzz, it isn’t the first time a celebrity fell under the federal microscope.

Here are some other memorable moments of government intervention in drug promotions featuring celebrities:

Magic Johnson—Kaletra (Abbott)

The FDA issued a warning letter in July 2009 against Abbott for its DTC video for HIV treatment Kaletra starring NBA star Magic Johnson. According to the letter, the video “minimize[d] the serious risks” and “overstate[d] the efficacy” of the drug.

In his statement promoting Kaletra, Johnson said, “Well, the good thing is, Kaletra is a part of my regimen, and for 5 years, I have been undetectable [his viral load], so I just hope that continues.”

While Johnson’s experience with the drug may have been positive, the promotional testimonial suggests that Kaletra enables all patients to successfully manage their disease and live a “normal life,” the FDA wrote in its letter.

Nikki Stone — Ultram ER (Johnson & Johnson)

The FDA issued a warning letter to Johnson & Johnson in 2009 regarding its chronic pain medication Ultram ER.

The agency said the company’s promotional webcast featuring Olympic gold medalist Nikki Stone misrepresented what is known about the drug’s efficacy.

“Because Ultram ER is a 24-hour treatment, I no longer found myself waking up due to chronic pain,” Stone said in the webcast. “This was and is important to my overall chronic pain management program, because sleep is a critical factor in my overall mood, which affects my relationship[s].”

In its warning letter, the FDA said the promotion failed to note that “Ultram ER is associated with the serious risks of potent narcotics, some of which are potentially fatal.”

Robert Jarvik — Lipitor (Pfizer)

Robert Jarvik, who is credited with inventing the artificial heart, endorsed Pfizer’s cholesterol drug Lipitor in a direct-to-consumer (DTC) ad in which he appeared to give medical advice.

Jarvik, however, never obtained a license to practice medicine or prescribe medications. It wasn’t until the Congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce issued a letter in 2008 expressing concerns about the misleading nature of the ads that Pfizer ultimately stopped the campaign.

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