On July, 8, 2013, Stacy London, star of the TV show What Not To Wear, entered into a partnership with drug maker AbbVie, manufacturer of the anti-psoriasis drug, Humira. Humira is reportedly responsible for 70% of the drug maker’s profits. The promotional campaign is called “Uncover Your Confidence with Stacy London.”
The campaign would be great except for the long list of dire adverse effects and side effects Humira has had on patients who have used it.
Humira works by suppressing your immune system, but a weakened immune system can leave your body’s defenses too weak to protect you from ordinary bacterial infections and a host of other rare deadly diseases. The adverse effects and side effects of Humira have been so bad that the FDA has required a black box warning on the drug telling users they can get “Serious infections and malignancy that may lead to hospitalization or death.” Infections and cancers linked to Humira include tuberculosis, lymphoma, skin cancer, leukemia, Kaposi’s sarcoma (a tumor caused by a herpes virus). Adverse effects of Humira include liver failure, sarcoidosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome (progressive paralysis), stroke, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis and more.
London’s campaign misleads
The campaign featuring London leads people to believe that she recovered from psoriasis by using Humira, but she has written a book in which she states that her psoriasis cleared up after she had a tonsillectomy at age 17. She writes, “No only did the operation clear up my skin, but I haven had an outbreak of psoriasis since.”
The information about what actually cleared up London’s psoriasis is not contained on her “UncoverYourConfidence.com” website, sponsored by AbbVie.
Dr. David Healy, who wrote a book exposing the pharmaceutical industry called “Pharmageddon” (and who runs the website RxIsk.org, which crowd-sources data on drug side effects), wrote an article in August, 2013, “Stacy London, What Not to Take,” which asked London to help psoriasis sufferers by letting them know AbbVie has taken legal action against the European Medicines Agency to try and block access to data on Humira’s side effects (pdf).
In addition to treating psoriasis, AbbVie markets Humira to treat rheumatoid arthritis, several other forms of arthritis, Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.
In June, 2013, a jury ordered AbbVie to pay $2.2 million to a North Dakota couple who sued the drug maker after the wife got a life-threatening fungal infection after taking Humira. The jury found the drug company failed to notify doctors about the potentially fatal side effects of taking the drug.
Ironically, the post-marketing experience with Humira also reveals that it can lead to a very bad skin reaction: “new or worsening psoriasis” — the very condition it is widely prescribed to treat, with help of course from Stacy London.