60 Minutes’ Weight-Loss Tip: Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You

Americans have become accustomed to endless pharmaceutical commercials while watching TV. The industry is the country's fourth-biggest by television ad spend – one of only two in the world (along with New Zealand) to allow such direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising.

But sometimes it can get worse.like in a 60 minutes part(cbs1/1/23) The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (1/19/23) effectively accused exist pharmaceutical advertisement

13-minute session on weight loss drug Wegovy, the only medical expert interviewed cbs It was the doctors, who had received thousands of dollars in consulting fees and honoraria from Novo Nordisk — the company that happened to be sponsoring the broadcast. As the group also noted, “no other weight loss methods were mentioned.”

“Wonderful” report

Fatima Cody Stanford 60 minutes

one 60 minutesThe primary source is Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, who received at least $15,000 from pharmaceutical companies whose products she marketed.

60 minutesLesley Stahl interviews obesity expert Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford and profiles two women who tried unsuccessfully to lose weight, and their doctor, Dr. Caroline Apovian.

Stahl told the audience that Apovian was “finally relieved that according to the FDA, she has a highly effective drug that is safe for her patients.” She continued, “It's part of a new generation of drugs that make people average weight loss of 15% to 22%, which is impressive and helps maintain weight.”

“Safe,” “Impressive,” “Finally.” More words were used to describe Wegovy on the radio: “very good,” “powerful,” and “very effective and safe.”

But there's a catch, says Stahl:

The vast majority of obese patients simply cannot afford Wegovy, and most insurance companies refuse to cover it, in part because, as AHIP (Association of the Health Insurance Industry) explained in a statement, these drugs “have not been shown to be effective in long-term weight management. Well, there may be complications and adverse effects on patients.”

Apovian assured the audience that most of the side effects — “nausea, vomiting” — go away with time, and she expressed frustration that many of her patients couldn’t get the medication “because insurance didn’t cover it,” one patient described. , her insurance company told her it considered Wegovy a “vanity drug.” Another patient's health plan “classified anti-obesity drugs in the same category as drugs for erectile dysfunction and cosmetic purposes,” Stahl noted.

drugmakers as heroes

nice to see cbs Go after the insurance industry, which often refuses to provide the insurance necessary to maximize its own profits (No public2/2/23; the truth came out, 10/20/22). But our broken health care system is only partially to blame for greedy insurance companies; greedy pharmaceutical companies also play a starring role.However in 60 minutesIn this tale of villain and victim, Novo Nordisk plays a helpless quasi-hero.

Stahl reports that Wegovy “is not readily available. The drug is currently in short supply. It costs over $1,300 a month.” But her only question about the cost is why insurance companies don't cover it—not why it costs so much in the first place money.

Novo Nordisk recently forecast a 19% increase in operating profit due to demand for Wegovy (Bloomberg, 2/1/23) — from a company that made $8 billion last year. It's an industry that already regularly expects margins of 15-20% — Novo Nordisk's 31% in 2022 — compared with 4-9% for non-pharma companies.

In Norway, for which the Norwegian Medicines Agency recently refused to reimburse Wegovy, out-of-pocket costs of up to $425 per month (medical observation, 19 Jan 23). Prices in Denmark are about the same (Alt12/20/22).

And Wegovy is the exact same drug — just at a higher dose — than Nordisk's older, more widely used diabetes drug Ozempic, which 60 minutes Also discussed as “off-label” (meaning not FDA-approved) for weight loss. Ozempic, approved in 2017, costs about $900 a month in the U.S. without insurance. In Canada, it costs less than $200 a month without insurance.

Life expectancy and health care spending, 1970-2015

The U.S. spends far more on health care than other rich countries, yet has increasingly low life expectancy.

This is largely because Canada, like Norway and Denmark, negotiates prices with pharmaceutical companies rather than letting them set whatever insanely inflated prices they want, which leads to staggering profits. (The Lower Inflation Act, passed last year, did include provisions giving Medicare the power to negotiate certain drug prices, the first of which will go into effect in 2026.) The United States spends more per capita on health care than any other rich country, and a large portion of it Driven by spending on branded drugs. Brand-name drug prices in the US are 3.5 times higher than in other high-income countries due to US government policies that favor drug companies over people (Federal Funds, 11/17/21).

60 minutesLesley Stahl did give a nod to the conflict involved in her report – “Doctor Apovian and Stanford have been advising companies developing obesity drugs, including the Danish company Novo Nordisk (Novo Nordisk), which is the advertiser for this broadcast.”

She did not specify that they were paid for their consulting services. Cody Stanford received more than $15,000 from Novo Nordisk in 2021 (the latest year for which data is available), and nearly $9,000 from Apovian.

You'd think these apparent conflicts of interest would prompt the show to go to great lengths to at least find other key sources to balance out their coverage. But the only other expert source in the story is economist Thomas Phillipson, an outspoken critic of drug price controls who has argued elsewhere that Democrats' 2021 bill to let Medicare negotiate certain drug prices is “bigger than Covid-19.” -19 is 31 times more lethal “date” (hill12/2/21).

“Business Restart”

NPR: Wegovy works.But what happens if you can't afford to keep taking the medicine

NPR (1/23/23) noted that if you stop taking a drug that costs nearly $17,000 a year, “most people regain most of their weight within a year.”

endpoint news (1/23/23) reported that “Novo Nordisk halted Wegovy promotions in March due to supply issues, but said in November it plans to ‘restart broad commerce' in the new year.” That's convenient 60 minutes‘ reports are in good agreement with reboots.

Novo Nordisk protests that they cannot violate FDA advertising rules because they

No payment or sponsorship provided to CBS 60 Minutes Because they covered obesity in the news segment airing on January 1, 2023, we did not control any content and played no role in identifying or selecting the doctors and patients featured in the news segment.

Of course, Novo Nordisk has no control over this content 60 minutes Report – and don't have to. Advertisers who pay for corporate news outlets often don't have to tell them how to report because those outlets understand the dangers of biting the hand that feeds them.if that paragraph have submitted as paid advertising by Novo Nordisk, it will be subject to 60 minutes.

The FDA requires drug advertisers to present the “drug's most significant risks” and “present the benefits and risks of prescription drugs in a balanced manner.”So Wegovy's ads have to talk about potential risks like thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, hypoglycemia, and kidney failure — none of which 60 minutes mentioned.

Aside from AHIP's claims about “adverse effects,” which were quickly dismissed, they also didn't include anything about the drug's other potential downsides that other news outlets had mentioned in their coverage of Wegovy — such as that it wasn't safe for all. people are effective, or it should be taken long-term so that the lost weight does not come back (NPR30 Jan 23).

What more could an advertiser ask for?

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