Health group lambasts CBS ‘60 Minutes’ segment for overt promotion of Novo Nordisk’s obesity med Wegovy

The nonprofit public health advocacy group the Physicians Committee issued a formal complaint that a recent CBS "60 Minutes" segment was a promotion for Novo Nordisk’s obesity drug, Wegovy, that was dressed up as a news segment.

The Washington, D.C.-based group has filed a complaint with federal bodies alleging that the CBS "60 Minutes" segment that aired on New Year’s Day breached the FDA’s “fair balance” rules for drug ads.

The Committee said in a release that the feature failed to talk about alternatives to the drug or about other weight-loss methods; that only experts “paid by Novo” were used in the program; and that the piece used overly promotional language.

“The 60 Minutes program looked like a news story, but it was effectively a drug ad,” said Physicians Committee President Neal Barnard, M.D., FACC, adjunct professor of medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine, in the release.

“And there are FDA regulations on prescription drug advertising related risks and contraindications. Wegovy can cause digestive side effects and increased heart rate. Gallstones, pancreatitis, and serious drops in blood sugar have occurred, especially when Wegovy is combined with other diabetes drugs.”

Barnard added that he also found it “concerning” that Novo Nordisk’s political action committee has “paid more than $250,000 in campaign contributions to members of Congress in an effort to pass legislation to make the U.S. government pay for Wegovy, a $1,300-per-month-per-person proposition.”

The Physicians Committee said there are still four news segments on CBS’ website “promoting Novo Nordisk drugs"  and that it wants them removed immediately and have a new “corrective ad” put in their place explaining the side effects and risks associated with Wegovy.

Novo has been suffering from a number of bumps in the road for Wegovy, an injectable form of GLP-1 drug semaglutide, since its FDA approval back in 2021.

Last fall, the drug nabbed a surprise endorsement from Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who tweeted in a reply to questions over his weight loss in 2022 that he had been using Wegovy, though there are questions over whether this was prescribed as per its indication.

There are reports that many others have been doing this same thing, including those with a lower BMI or no weight-loss-related condition that the drug’s label demands, leading to an unusual spike in demand for the drug.

This has caused Wegovy supply issues for Novo which, coupled with manufacturing problems, only deepened bumps in production last year for the drug and led to an official shortage of the drug in 2022. 

Novo said these issues are now mainly in the rearview mirror, but a spokesperson for the Danish pharma told Fierce Pharma Marketing earlier this month that it “will closely monitor prescribing trends and phase promotional efforts as we assess demand” for Wegovy, after its manufacturing issues.

A spokesperson for Novo Nordisk told Fierce Pharma Marketing: “Novo Nordisk did not provide any payment or sponsorship to CBS 60 Minutes for their reporting on obesity as part of a news segment that aired on January 1, 2023, and we did not control any of the content or have any role in identifying or selecting the doctors and patients featured in the news segment.”