3 months ago, the FDA yelled at Kim Kardashian — and revealed a much bigger problem.

Kim Kardashian, former breaker of the Internet and star of "That Show You Watch on the Treadmill," is pregnant.

But will she get her baby body back??? AMERICA NEEDS TO KNOW!!!


Unfortunately, pregnancy hasn't been all baby bump, push present, and smooth sailing for the reality star. Like most expectant mothers, Kardashian has suffered from occasional, painful bouts of morning sickness.

Fortunately, unlike most of her pregnant cohort, Kardashian was able to take that suffering, grab it by the collar, and monetize the ever-loving bejeezus out of it.


For those who hate squinting, that's Kardashian singing the praises of a morning sickness drug called Diclegis.

Just, you know, giving it some completely spontaneous love on social media. Like normal people do. For their 37 million friends. A genuine, heartfelt, totally-not-secretly-highly-compensated-stealth-endorsement from your bud, who definitely has real actual personal experience using the product in question.

Who wouldn't believe her?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for one.

An FDA official, seen here making sure some lettuce isn't a deadly biohazard. Photo by the FDA.

Turns out, Kardashian's post was, in fact, a paid advertisement. (I know. Try to remain calm.) Not only was it a paid advertisement, but it was a paid advertisement that left out some pretty crucial information about some of the drug's pretty nasty potential side effects.

Because of the vast reach of Kardashian's Instagram feed, the agency was compelled to issue a response — and it was an ornery one:

"The social media post is false or misleading in that it presents efficacy claims for DICLEGIS, but fails to communicate any risk information associated with its use and it omits material facts. Thus, the social media post misbrands DICLEGIS within the meaning of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and makes its distribution violative. ... These violations are concerning from a public health perspective because they suggest that DICLEGIS is safer than has been demonstrated."

Two things should be immediately clear from the FDA statement.

1. It would make amazing Adele lyrics...

"Amazing."

And...

2. Taking medical advice from a reality TV star is a terrible idea.

Unfortunately, Kim Kardashian is just the tip of the iceberg...

Prescription drug ads in general — even ones that do get their facts right — are kind of the worst.

Abilify has been great for my anxiet ... AAAGGHH A SENTIENT BATHROBE IS FOLLOWING ME AAAAGGHH! Photo by Raza Syed, used with permission.

If you watch any TV at all, chances are you've seen at least a bajillion-and-a-half commercials urging you to "talk to your doctor" about Nexium, Cialis, Novorex, Fontainebleau, Prospector Pete's Tooth Caulk, or what have you if you experience any number of vague, over-broad symptoms.

Sneezing? Talk to your doctor about oxycodone. Photo via iStock.

And sure, you could demand your doctor write you this or that prescription. And they'd probably smile and nod. Most likely, they'd try to gently talk you down. But there's a chance they would just decide it's not worth the trouble and give you what you wanteven if it's a drug you don't actually need. And that's where the problem lies.

Asking a professional to disregard their hard-won expertise on the advice of a commercial is kind of ridiculous when you think about it.

How ridiculous? Just ... imagine any of the following scenarios:

"Donating to earthquake relief in Haiti? Talk to your charity about sending your cash to Sweden instead."

"Claiming a deduction for that charitable gift you just made? Talk to your accountant about turning it into a home mortgage interest deduction!"

"And speaking of home, why does your home have to be made of bricks and mortar? Talk to your builder about graham crackers and strawberry cream cheese."

Sturdy as a rock! Photo by rcstanley/Flickr.

That's what drug ads are trying to get you to do.

Doctors aren't perfect, of course. They're human, and they do get things wrong from time to time. But drug commercials are essentially hoping you'll go to your physician and say, "Sure, you've got professional integrity, six years of graduate school, and took an oath to do no harm, but what about this 30-second B-roll of women in bathtubs voiced by the third lead actor from 'Suits' that I just saw? How does that stack up?"

They're trying to Kardashian you.

Not only are these ads often misleading, they also help drive up the price of drugs.

It's no secret that Americans like things bigger and better.

A "small" in America.

Our towels are plusher. Our French fries are more fried. Our hats are larger.

And our drugs are the most expensive in the world — often double the price of what they are in other similarly wealthy countries.

The United States is one of only two countries in the world that allow direct-to-consumer drug ads — and we pay extra for medicine because of it.

New Zealand is the other. Obviously, there's worse company we could be in. Photo by thinboyfatter/Flickr.

Turn on British TV, and you won't see Benedict Cumberbatch striding purposely across a cricket pitch, saying, "Pardon me, sir, but if it's not terribly much of a bother, would you mind inquiring with your physician about Crumpetrex?" Watch television in Germany, and no one will urge you to "ASKEN ZE DOCTOR FIR SCHNITZELGRAZ!"

We are the only suckers who get those ads shoved in our faces. (New Zealanders do too, but they get hobbits in exchange.)

And pharmaceutical companies go buck-wild on these ads ... spending $20 billion over the past five years.

That cost gets passed on to sick people (and to people who pester their dermatologist until she throws up her hands and signs over a prescription for Cialis so she can move on to her next wart-freezing already).

Regardless of our reasons for needing a medication, that's not a cost we should be paying.

Like Kim Kardashian's Instagram feed, drug commercials serve pretty much no practical purpose — and there's no reason they couldn't quietly disappear forever.

Serious doctors mean business. Photo via iStock.

That's what the American Medical Association — the largest professional organization of physicians in the United States — wants, which is why it voted to call for a ban on the ads last week.

"Today's vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices," Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of the AMA board, told the Chicago Tribune. (Come on, Adele, are you seeing this? So much gold here!)

That's a great first step. But there's still more that could be done.

Unfortunately, the AMA vote doesn't address subtle social media ads like Kardashian's, which could lead pharmaceutical companies to simply shift their ad dollars toward efforts on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. (And let's be honest, who among us wouldn't share a Facebook-optimized George Takei meme featuring dancing arthritic cats, sponsored by Celebrex?)

Meow to your doc ... purrrrr about Celebrex! Photo via iStock.

It also doesn't address direct-to-physician marketing, in which drug companies use sales representatives to tout the benefits of their medications to doctors in person, which accounts for a huge portion of pharmaceutical industry spending — in addition to just being generally kind of shady. ("Funny, my doctor prescribed me the exact same medication that was featured on that nifty pen in his office!)

If we really want our drugs to pull even price-wise with the Canadas and Norways of the world, a federal law that calls for transparency, competition, and fair pricing needs to be passed and enforced.

As for Kim Kardashian? She ultimately made good on her endorsement deal...

...and satisfied the FDA in the process.

#CorrectiveAd I guess you saw the attention my last #morningsickness post received. The FDA has told Duchesnay, Inc., that my last post about Diclegis (doxylamine succinate and pyridoxine HCl) was incomplete because it did not include any risk information or important limitations of use for Diclegis. A link to this information accompanied the post, but this didn't meet FDA requirements. So, I'm re-posting and sharing this important information about Diclegis. For US Residents Only. Diclegis is a prescription medicine used to treat nausea and vomiting of pregnancy in women who have not improved with change in diet or other non-medicine treatments. Limitation of Use: Diclegis has not been studied in women with hyperemesis gravidarum. Important Safety Information Do not take Diclegis if you are allergic to doxylamine succinate, other ethanolamine derivative antihistamines, pyridoxine hydrochloride or any of the ingredients in Diclegis. You should also not take Diclegis in combination with medicines called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), as these medicines can intensify and prolong the adverse CNS effects of Diclegis. The most common side effect of Diclegis is drowsiness. Do not drive, operate heavy machinery, or other activities that need your full attention unless your healthcare provider says that you may do so. Do not drink alcohol, or take other central nervous system depressants such as cough and cold medicines, certain pain medicines, and medicines that help you sleep while you take Diclegis. Severe drowsiness can happen or become worse causing falls or accidents. Tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Diclegis can pass into your breast milk and may harm your baby. You should not breastfeed while using Diclegis. Additional safety information can be found at www.DiclegisImportantSafetyinfo.com or www.Diclegis.com. Duchesnay USA encourages you to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
A photo posted by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on


Maybe not ... quite as catchy. But ... progress?

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

Keep Reading Show less

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."