Novo Nordisk’s Extravagant $11 Million Expenditure to Woo Physicians Raises Ethical Concerns, Say Industry Experts

**Novo Nordisk Spends $11 Million on Meals and Travel for Doctors**

Experts are alarmed by a recent report revealing that Novo Nordisk, a popular weight-loss injectable manufacturer, spent $11 million in the last year on meals and travel for thousands of prescribing doctors. This spending was primarily aimed at educating doctors about the company’s drugs, such as Wegovy and other GLP-1 agonists. The report comes from data provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which tracks gifts given by pharmaceutical companies to healthcare professionals.

**The Role of GLP-1 Agonists in Weight Loss and Diabetes Treatment**

Novo Nordisk’s weight-loss and diabetes injectables, Wegovy and Ozempic, both mimic a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) produced in the intestines after meals. GLP-1 helps regulate appetite and food intake, allowing individuals to feel more satisfied with fewer calories. Wegovy is approved for the treatment of obesity in individuals with weight-related health conditions, while Ozempic is approved for those with type 2 diabetes.

**Novo Nordisk’s Spending Patterns Raise Concern**

While it is common for drug reps and prescribers to meet over meals, STAT’s analysis of Novo Nordisk’s spending revealed excessive and concerning patterns. Nearly 12,000 prescribers received free food from the company more than a dozen times, with over 200 prescribers receiving more than 50 free meals and snacks. One doctor even received 193 free meals, which experts find excessive.

Ceci Connoly, the president and CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Partners, finds these figures “outrageous” and laments the normalization of big pharma’s spending on marketing and promotions. Instead, she suggests that the funds could be used for further research into the drugs’ side effects and long-term effectiveness. Research has already suggested a potential elevated risk of a potentially fatal gastrointestinal condition associated with GLP-1 agonists.

**Views on Accepting Gifts from Pharma Companies**

Opinions on prescribers accepting gifts from pharmaceutical companies vary. Dr. Nisha Patel, an obesity medicine doctor in San Francisco, doesn’t see an issue with prescribers accepting “a meal here and there” from drug companies. However, she suggests that regular acceptance of meals raises concerns regarding optics and trust in the healthcare system, particularly in the post-COVID era. Patel believes that physicians and healthcare providers should work towards restoring trust in science, which can be challenging when prescribers accept gifts, even if they don’t influence their clinical decision-making.

**Looking Up Your Doctor on the CMS Open Payments Website**

Patients are encouraged to research their providers on the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services open payment website. This allows them to see the value, type, and number of gifts their doctors have accepted from pharmaceutical companies. However, it is important to note that not all patients have the means or skills to access this information, particularly those who are more vulnerable. The trust factor and relationship between patients and clinicians may be called into question if patients discover that their doctors are spending more time with drug manufacturer representatives than with them.

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