Ozempic ads are here, there, and everywhere

You’ve probably heard of Ozempic—the diabetes drug that has become a fave of celebs and border-hopping Americans for its weight loss capabilities—because it’s literally everywhere. 

Driving the news: From sports to social media, advertisements for pharma giant Novo Nordisk’s smash hit are inescapable, which has left some medical professionals worried about a wave of overprescriptions, leading to shortages and an uptick in nasty side effects.

Why it matters: The saturation of Ozempic ads feels different than other drug campaigns we’ve seen before in Canada. It feels… dare we say… very American

  • If you’ve ever watched US TV, you’ll know it’s riddled with drug ads, as the US is one of only two countries that allow direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising. 

In Canada, drug ads are limited to “reminder ads” that can only mention the name, price, and quantity of a drug (with an invitation to ask your doctor if it's right for you), or “help-seeking messages,” which discuss a disease without mentioning a specific drug.   

Yes, but: Health Canada has reviewed 30 complaints against Ozempic ads, concluding that they are, “compliant with the current advertising provisions,” as they don’t say what the drug is for—they mostly just feature happy-looking suburban people asking, “What’s Ozempic?” 

  • One bioethicist told The CP that Novo Nordisk isn’t following "the spirit” of the law, knowing that people will look Ozempic up and see influencers hailing it as a wonder drug.  

Zoom out: This year, Health Canada added new guidelines to better define illegal drug advertising, but the regulation still faces criticism for lacking teeth and letting offenders off the hook. Ozempic’s unprecedented commercial blitzkrieg could amplify critiques.—QH