TikTok Weight-Loss Craze Causes Run On Potentially Life-Saving Drug While Media Fuels Frenzy
The mainstream media has a Sophie’s Choice to make when it comes to a relatively new form of insulin-regulating drug being subtly advertised as “magic.”
On one hand, the press has reported on a potentially life-threatening shortage of a Ozempic and other brands of a new family of pharmaceuticals that help regulate insulin levels in Americans suffering from the effects of Type 2 diabetes, with weight-loss as a positive side-effect.
On the other hand, the media desperately need the ad revenue from Big Pharma — and that includes Ozempic ads.
Numerous estimates allege that up to three-fourths of television ad revenue comes from pharmaceutical companies. (Federal law requires that drug manufacturers advertise the side-effects and other disclaimers, which is why the ads chew up a lot of expensive broadcast time during commercial breaks.)
We’ll pick on NBC News and Ozempic as a case study. From a lead story on TODAY:
“In recent months, demand for the drug has soared, colliding with global supply issues. Together, it’s led to a shortage of Ozempic.
“But the popularity of Ozempic, or semaglutide, isn’t because of rising rates of diabetes. Instead, it’s because of its weight loss benefits, doctors say. At a higher dose, semaglutide is used for weight loss. Ozempic manufacturer Novo Nordisk sells that higher dose under a different brand name: Wegovy.
“Shortages of Wegovy, also highly popular, were widespread last year. As a result, some people who had been taking Wegovy were instead prescribed Ozempic off-label for weight loss. That’s causing problems for people … who need the drug to manage their chronic illness.”
You might have heard the familiar “Oh, oh, oh, Ozempic” jingle in the televised ads — a play on “Magic” by Scottish ’70s Rock band Pilot, a one-hit wonder in the U.S. But magic it is not, as manufacturers are facing global supply chain woes in addition to the usual growing pains associated with a new, popular product.
Despite the built-in popularity, according to the watchdog StopMediaBiasNow.com, Ozempic is No. 2 on a list of top-spending advertisers for the last period reported — up from No. 4. And according to website Fierce Pharma, on an annual ranking basis, Ozempic is up from No. 5 in 2021 to No. 4 in 2022, with $157 million spent. Rybelsus, another brand name for semaglutide, is also facing shortages, though not currently one of the top-ad buys.
Celebrities and social media users, especially on Chinese-owned TikTok, are allegedly feeding the frenzy:
“If you’ve been scrolling through TikTok, however, you might have seen a[n] option for your weight loss goals: several TikTokers are injecting themselves weekly with a Type 2 diabetes drug called Ozempic, claiming it can help quickly trim your tummy. Kim Kardashian is rumored to have used the drug to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s dress for the Met Gala (though she has denied this) and Elon Musk has tweeted that he’s a fan.”
“#Ozempic and #OzempicChallenge have over 400 million views combined on TikTok, as people gush about losing weight with the drug. This fall, Andy Cohen called out celebrities using Ozempic for weight loss, tweeting, “Everyone is suddenly showing up 25 pounds lighter. What happens when they stop taking #Ozempic ?????”
Now that Ozempic supplies are notoriously low, attention has shifted to alternatives. Mounjaro (tirzepatide), produced by Eli Lilly, is also used to regulate insulin. The difference with Mounjaro is that it has not yet been cleared by the Federal Drug Administration for weight-loss purposes (but the PR machine is already hard at work on that). And like with the Ozempic and Wegovy brand names for semaglutide, a higher dose of the drug liraglutide is sold under the name Saxenda for weight loss, and at a lower dose, it’s sold as Victoza, for diabetes — also at risk for a run at the drug store counters.
In regard to Mounjaro, which is currently cleared for use to treat diabetes: NBC aired a news piece previewing the weight-loss fad, predicting that it could be come “the best-selling drug of all time” (their words — eat your heart out, Apsirin?) once the FDA clears it for weight loss.
As part of the Daily Health segment of NBC’s mid-day news program, hosts interviewed medical correspondent Dr. Uche Blackstock, who summarized the drug’s effects — including how users reported losing 52 lbs. on average. The focus shifted to one of “access,” which is industry and political talk for insurance coverage. The drug by itself could cost $1-2,000 a month without a discount or coupon from the manufacturer).
Blackstock warned that to avoid a scenario where those who need the drug are suddenly found without it, “We have to change the way we think about it — that it’s not just about cosmetics, but about health as well.”
Despite her warning, the hosts dug in with another question regarding the weight-loss angle of Mounjaro.
There’s a very real problem with the shortage, according to Dr. Robert Gabbay of the American Diabetes Association in U.S. News and World Report: “Because it’s a long-acting drug, you take it once a week to build up the … levels in the body. To be effective, you’ve got to be on it for a while. If you were to switch, you sort of have to start building up again. It could take a couple, three months to get to where they were, in which case they’ve lost a lot of time and effectiveness.”
And that could be risky or even deadly for those struggling with severe diabetes. An estimated 34 million Americans have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes in varying levels of severity.
From the hip: If there is indeed a massive shortage of a drug that millions have become dependent upon to address a widespread condition, why not stifle the miracle weight-loss headlines and require that NovoNordisk advertise for drugs other than Ozempic (until the market catches up with the demand, that is)? We know it can cancel ads, such as when the network famously banned an Olympics ad critical of China.
According to the grassroots organizers at StopMediaBiasNow.com, big broadcast media has become irresponsible in numerous ways and will only listen to a drop in ad revenue. The website suggests contacting mainstream media ad buyers and letting them know your discontent. For Ozempic, the related contact information may be found at https://stopmediabiasnow.com/x007. Contacting mainstream media advertisers will take about five minutes, the site claims.
Until NovoNordisk or NBC listens, the mainstream press will continue complaining about the drug shortage in news form while gladly taking in millions of dollars to promote the pharmaceutical pandemonium. And we wonder why the American people distrust the mainstream media and Big Pharma.
We understand there is (or should be) a high wall between ad sales and news reporting in any legitimate news agency. But some consistency and corporate responsibility might go a long way toward restoring trust in both institutions.