Talk show host Dr. Phil has a new subject: AstraZeneca's Bydureon

Dr. Phil has some new advice. In a campaign beginning March 10, Philip McGraw, better known by his TV talk show host name Dr. Phil, will partner with AstraZeneca ($AZN) in a new diabetes awareness campaign.

Dr. Phil

Although AZ didn't detail specifics, the pharma company said McGraw has lived with Type 2 diabetes for more than 25 years, so he has personal experience with the disease. And his role as "host and producer of TV's #1 motivational daytime talk show" shows he has the "ability to help motivate others."

"Dr. Phil is uniquely positioned to help people with diabetes understand the psychology of committing to take action and staying accountable to living a healthier life," the company said.

McGraw is also a customer. He has used AstraZeneca's Bydureon to manage his diabetes since 2012, the company said.

It's that connection, as well as the "doctor" moniker that psychologist McGraw uses in front of his name, that bothers some people in the medical community and media.

Dartmouth physician-researcher Steven Woloshin told Vox that he's worried about "people assuming 'Dr.' means he is a physician." Vox did note that Dr. Phil will not be talking about the drug himself, but will be accompanied by a "real doctor" who can. Vox also charged that because of the Bydureon connection, "clearly the drugmaker doesn't have an interest in giving the public objective information about all the different treatments available for diabetes."

It's not the first time that the "Dr." title has put a drug company on the defensive. In 2008, Pfizer's ($PFE) Lipitor ads featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik, inventor of the artificial heart, drew fire because Jarvik was not a practicing physician. The company pulled the campaign.

AstraZeneca is looking for growth in diabetes, and Bydureon is one of the meds it thinks has untapped potential. It's a GLP-1 injectable in a newer class of diabetes drugs that includes its own Byetta and Novo Nordisk's ($NVO) Victoza. Two other competing drug classes in diabetes treatment are DPP-4 inhibitors like Merck's ($MRK) Januvia and Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Trulicity, and the newer SLGT2 inhibitors like AstraZeneca's Farxiga and Johnson & Johnson's Invokana.

In 2014, the last year for doctor payment stats, Bydureon topped the list with $22 million spent on doctors' speaker and consulting fees, meals and travel expenses. Three of the top spenders were diabetes drugs. Bydureon tallied total sales of $580 million in 2015, a 35% increase over 2014, according to AZ financials.

- read the Vox story

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