Losing weight has always been a common goal among many people, whether it’s to improve mobility, reduce the risk of health complications, or simply look better in clothing. With this desire in mind, particularly among young Americans, drug companies have turned to social media and its users to advertise and promote their weight-loss medications.
A recent study revealed in the Journal of Medical Internet Research sheds light on the fact that large pharmaceutical companies are using “patient influencers” on social media sites like Instagram and TikTok to promote their brands to millennials and Gen Zers. Instead of relying on a doctor’s recommendation, these companies are relying on influencers to share their personal stories and recommendations to pique people’s interest in their drugs.
Novo Nordisk produces a weight-loss medication called Wegovy, which was initially developed to treat Type 2 diabetes. However, Wegovy, also known as semaglutide and Ozempic, has gained popularity among people trying to lose weight because it can make them feel full for longer periods. According to The National Pulse, as of 2020, doctors had prescribed Wegovy over four million times in the United States for its weight-loss properties. This makes it the 129th most prescribed medication in the country. Due to its high demand, the drug is often out of stock, leading to shortages for diabetics.
While this approach of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising through social media influencers is effective, it raises ethical questions that require further investigation. The scientists who conducted the study emphasized the need for greater scrutiny in this area.
Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, once admitted to using Wegovy to aid in his weight loss, and many have speculated whether Kim Kardashian also used it to fit into a dress previously worn by Marilyn Monroe.
Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical company, is not only relying on social media influencers to promote its obesity prescription but is also actively trying to get it included in the list of medications covered by Medicare. Additionally, the company has formed a partnership with The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). However, Novo Nordisk’s focus on Black Americans has generated controversy.