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MuckReads Podcast: When Diet Drugs Harm Instead of Help

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(Tannen Maury/ Bloomberg News)

In the wake of the ill-fated craze over the diet drug combination fen-phen, which was linked to heart valve damage in the late ‘90s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rejected new diet drugs for more than a decade.

But a new report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today found that in the last three years, the FDA has allowed five new drugs on the market that are potentially harmful.

One of the reporters on that investigation, John Fauber, joins ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein in today’s podcast to talk about:

  • $60 million in drug company spending since 2010 – from lobbying fees to payments to medical societies and doctors – and its effect on the FDA approvals process. “Money plays a role in just about everything in modern medicine,” Fauber says.
  • Why it’s dangerous to rely on surrogate markers like weight loss or lower cholesterol levels instead of indicators of real clinical outcomes like a reduction in heart attacks.
  • Best practices for patients whose doctors recommend any new drug that’s not needed for a life-threatening problem.

Hear their discussion on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher, and and read Fauber’s investigation of the diet drugs recently approved by the FDA. Subscribe to ProPublica’s podcasts to hear conversations like these each week.

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