Ad­vo­ca­cy group ac­cus­es No­vo Nordisk of vi­o­lat­ing FDA's 'fair bal­ance' ad­ver­tis­ing rules

A non­prof­it ad­vo­ca­cy group has filed a com­plaint with the FDA ac­cus­ing No­vo Nordisk of lin­ing up pro­mo­tion­al ma­te­r­i­al for its weight loss drug We­govy that mas­quer­ad­ed as a CBS news seg­ment.

The com­plaint filed by the Physi­cians Com­mit­tee for Re­spon­si­ble Med­i­cine on Thurs­day takes is­sue with a 13-minute seg­ment of a 60 Min­utes episode that aired on Jan. 1, fea­tur­ing two Boston-area doc­tors who’ve con­sult­ed for No­vo Nordisk.

While CBS cit­ed No­vo Nordisk as an ad­ver­tis­er on the broad­cast, the Physi­cians Com­mit­tee ar­gues that the seg­ment vi­o­lates the FDA’s “fair bal­ance” re­quire­ments for ad­ver­tise­ments, and urges reg­u­la­tors to re­quire that the seg­ment be with­drawn and that No­vo is­sue cor­rec­tive ad­ver­tis­ing.

“Al­though it was in­clud­ed dur­ing a reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled episode of CBS’s pop­u­lar se­ries 60 Min­utes, the We­govy pro­mo­tion meets the de­f­i­n­i­tion of an ad­ver­tise­ment,” the com­plaint states. “No med­ical ex­perts who were not paid by No­vo Nordisk ap­peared, nor did the pro­mo­tion dis­cuss al­ter­na­tive prod­ucts or ap­proach­es to ad­dress obe­si­ty.”

The group al­so takes is­sue with words used to de­scribe the drug dur­ing the seg­ment, in­clud­ing “safe,” “fab­u­lous,” and “ro­bust.”

We­govy was ap­proved in June 2021 as a once-week­ly in­jec­tion for chron­ic weight man­age­ment in adults. It con­tains the same med­ica­tion, semaglu­tide, as the com­pa­ny’s type 2 di­a­betes drug Ozem­pic, just at a high­er dose. In a fol­low-up episode, one of the doc­tors re­turns to ex­plain how We­govy and Ozem­pic work.

No­vo Nordisk has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions. The com­pa­ny said in an email to End­points News:

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.

No­vo Nordisk had halt­ed We­govy pro­mo­tions back in March on the heels of sup­ply is­sues but said in No­vem­ber that it planned a “broad com­mer­cial re-launch” in the new year.

Last month, the com­pa­ny re­port­ed a short­age of Ozem­pic caused by “in­cred­i­ble de­mand cou­pled with over­all glob­al sup­ply con­straints.” While No­vo de­clined to con­firm whether the short­ages are due to off-la­bel use of Ozem­pic for weight loss, it did ac­knowl­edge that some providers may be pre­scrib­ing the drug for such use. The is­sue is ex­pect­ed to be re­solved by ear­ly 2023, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent­ly up­dat­ed re­port by the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Health-Sys­tem Phar­ma­cists. 

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