Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk Sued Over Popular Diet Drugs Mounjaro and Ozempic


Photo: antefixus21 Used under Creative Commons license.

Three new diabetes drugs have recently taken the world by storm: Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy – because they also help users lose weight. But in recent months over 50 lawsuits have been filed against Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, the drug makers, for alleged side effects such as stomach paralysis.

Mounjaro is the brand name used by Eli Lilly for tirzepatide, while Ozempic and Wegovy are the brand names used by Novo Nordisk for semaglutide. The three drugs are prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes and are easy to administer: users simply need to take an injection once a week. The way they work is also similar: they make users feel full longer by mimicking a hormone known as GLP-1 that reduces appetite. Government authorities are increasingly approving their use for weight loss.

One of the early lawsuits was brought by the firm Morgan & Morgan from Orlando, Florida, which sued both Eli Lilly of Indianapolis, Indiana, and Novo Nordisk of Bagsværd, Denmark, on behalf of Jaclyn Bjorklund, a 44-year-old woman from Louisiana in August 2023.

"[Our client has] been to the emergency room multiple times. She's actually even thrown up so violently that she's lost teeth," Paul Pennock of Morgan & Morgan told CBS television. "It is our opinion that these drugs are causing these problems. We think that the evidence is sufficient for us to be able to prove it or we would not have filed the case, and we intend to file many more in the coming days and weeks.”

Morgan & Morgan says it is investigating 400 complaints from 45 U.S. states.

“I wish I never touched it. I wish I’d never heard of it in my life,” Joanie Knight of Angie, Louisiana, told CNN. “This medicine made my life hell. So much hell. It has cost me money. It cost me a lot of stress; it cost me days and nights and trips with my family. It’s cost me a lot, and it’s not worth it. The price is too high.”

The companies have not denied that the two drugs have major side effects. "Symptoms of delayed gastric emptying, nausea and vomiting are listed as side effects. The majority of GI side effects are mild to moderate in severity and of short duration,” Novo Nordisk said in a statement to the media.

And the companies claim that they do their best to track problems. "Patient safety is Lilly's top priority, and we actively engage in monitoring and reporting safety information for all our medicines," Eli Lilly said in a statement to the media.

But the drugs have gone viral, in no small part because of advertising by drug makers and distributors. A June 2023 search by NBC News uncovered no less than 4,000 weight-loss drug ads running on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, five times greater than ads for Viagra, the erectile dysfunction drug. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Elon Musk have also waxed eloquent about these drugs.

In no small part, the use of these drugs is not merely for vanity. Global obesity rates, driven by cheap fast food, have almost tripled in the last ten years. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.5 billion people are overweight. and about one billion people are “clinically obese.”

Despite the recent backlash and lawsuits, the advertisements keep coming: For example, just before the Oscar ceremonies last week, Eli Lilly rolled out a television advertisement intended to warn people that the drugs were not intended for weight loss but the impact might have been the opposite because it linked the drugs to Hollywood celebrities. “For the smaller dress or tux, for a big night, for vanity,” says the narrator, as camera bulbs flash and a red carpet is rolled out.

There’s a simple reason for these ads: profits from these drugs are worth a fortune: in 2023, Barclays bank projected that the weight-loss drug industry would be worth $200 billion in the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, the justice system is slowly gearing up to tackle what might be an avalanche of lawsuits. In February 2024, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, a special body within the U.S. court system, ordered that the multiple lawsuits be combined into a single case to be heard in Pennsylvania.


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