Exposed: The Sleazy, Deceptive Pharmaceutical Marketing Campaign for ‘Miracle’ Weight Loss Drug

News & Politics

If you have turned on the corporate state media at any point in the past couple of years, chances are good you’ve been subjected to pharmaceutical propaganda disguised as “news.” This phenomenon is demonstrable in many contexts, not least of which is the marketing of a dangerous and extremely misrepresented drug called semaglutide.

Related: ‘Miracle Drug’: CNBC Advertises for Pharma, Disguises It as News

On the basis of a dubious study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in March of 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Novo Nordisk’s formulation of semaglutide, which belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 agonists formerly used exclusively to treat diabetes, as a novel treatment for obesity. An orgy of pharmaceutical profiteering exploded.

From the study that started the bonanza, via the New England Journal of Medicine (emphasis added):

In this double-blind trial, we enrolled 1961 adults with a body-mass index (the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) of 30 or greater (≥27 in persons with ≥1 weight-related coexisting condition), who did not have diabetes, and randomly assigned them, in a 2:1 ratio, to 68 weeks of treatment with once-weekly subcutaneous semaglutide (at a dose of 2.4 mg) or placebo, plus lifestyle intervention…

The mean change in body weight from baseline to week 68 was −14.9% in the semaglutide group as compared with −2.4% with placebo, for an estimated treatment difference of −12.4 percentage points.

This study used to justify the administration of semaglutide for weight loss:

  • Followed patients for barely over a year
  • Combined the administration of semaglutide with “lifestyle interventions” – i.e., calorie restriction and physical movement
  • Did not examine what occurs when semaglutide is discontinued (spoiler alert: all the weight comes back)
  • Did not measure what percentage of weight lost was fat (desirable) compared to muscle (not desirable, especially in older patients). “They’ve lost muscle mass at a rate that alarms me,” Dr. Peter Attia has said of patients in his clinical practice on semaglutide.

Related: Doctor Warns of ANOTHER ‘Alarming’ Side Effect of ‘Miracle’ Weight Loss Drug

Ethical and methodological limitations of the study aside, semaglutide is big business for Novo Nordisk, manufacturer of Wegovy and Ozempic. So “ethics and science be damned” – the pharmaceutical and corporate state media mantra.

Independent journalist Lee Fang recently did an excellent job breaking down the deceptive marketing campaign sponsored by Novo Nordisk laundered through the corporate state media to become “news.” Viewers/readers might believe they’re consuming journalism, but they’re actually watching/reading an extended infomercial.

Via Lee Fang Substack (emphasis added):

In the ongoing debate concerning insurance coverage for Ozempic, which currently costs approximately $1,350 per month, an ABC News story quoted only one physician, Dr. Deborah Horn, who advocated for Medicare to cover the medication. However, the article omitted that Horn has received nearly a quarter of a million dollars from Novo Nordisk since 2020. The article also cited a study on the coverage issue produced by the Urban League but failed to note that the study was financed by the same pharmaceutical giant. These lapses in disclosure are indicative of a pattern seen in much of the news coverage surrounding this drug.

Dr. Angela Fitch of the Obesity Medicine Association has been quoted by the Washington Post and Washington Examiner calling for insurance programs to pay for Ozempic. Both publications failed to disclose that Novo Nordisk pays Fitch as a consultant and underwrites the group she leads.

Similarly, Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford has appeared in a series of high-profile publications urging the adoption of GLP-1 medications as an obesity treatment. USA Today only identified Stanford as “an obesity medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital.” CNBC, which quoted her on the biases that prevent patients from receiving the “treatment they need and they deserve,” cited Stanford’s affiliation with Harvard University. Neither publication noted her work as a paid consultant to Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, which produces its own line of GLP-1 medications…

 In February, NBC News reported on claims that stigma is preventing doctors from prescribing Ozempic. The article quoted a group called the “Obesity Action Coalition” and Rebecca Puhl, the deputy director of the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health, who told the media outlet that weight bias is keeping the medication out of the hands of patients.

“Unfortunately, the public viewpoint is that, if a person takes a medication, they’ve taken the easy way out to lose weight,” said Puhl in the article. 

Again, NBC News failed to report that Puhl is a recent consultant for Novo Nordisk, and that the Obesity Action Center receives more than $500,000 per year from the company.

One hand washes the other. The corporate state media does PR for pharmaceutical firms and deceives their own credulous audience into believing it’s objective news coverage while pharmaceutical advertising sustains these outlets’ bottom lines via advertising. Everybody wins – except the consumer.

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