Drugs that have been developed to help treat diabetes are now being pushed by drug companies and doctors as a great way for patients to lose weight. But what patients aren’t being told is that the threat of serious, possibly even permanent injury is very real. New reports keep coming in from individuals that have been harmed by treatments like Ozempic and Wegovy. Mike Papantonio is joined by attorney Cameron Stephenson to tell us what’s happening.
*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.
Mike Papantonio: Drugs that have been developed to help treat diabetes are now being pushed by drug companies and doctors as a great way for patients to lose weight. But what patients aren’t being told is that the threat is so serious of permanent injury, even the possibility of death. New reports keep coming in from individuals who’ve been harmed by these, this class of treatment. I have attorney Cameron Stephenson with me to talk about it. Cameron, every now and then we see a drug company come into the market. They absolutely know that the drug that they’re selling off-label is a drug that has propensity not just to harm people, but to kill people. Fen-Phen, we saw it with Fen-Phen. It was incredible. Everybody was taking Fen-Phen and people were dying of heart disease, a slow, ugly death. Hundreds and hundreds of women. This is looking very similar to me.
Cameron Stephenson: Pap, we have a problem here and I gotta tell you, this is something that I predict within the next 12 to 24 months is gonna get even worse. So let me tell you what you’ve got. You’ve got this poster child pharma industry company, Novo Nordisk. Okay. They have developed these three drugs, Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus. They developed these drugs allegedly for a very specific patient population. Okay. It was supposed to be approved only for diabetics and only for people with severe obesity. The issue is that that’s just what they told the FDA. All right. Make no mistake, Novo Nordisk knew when they developed these drugs that they were gonna go after a much larger population. The idea was to be first, to get it approved with the FDA and to get it out on the market. And immediately they start promoting off-label, start marketing off-label for people that are outside of this very narrow patient population.
Mike Papantonio: Okay. So let me talk about off-label just a second. We always see when a drug is out there and the drug company says, well, you know, we only have a limited number of people we can sell this to. What if we expand it? What if we make it bigger? Here’s what they do. They say to the detailer, detailers the person goes around and talks to the doctor. Most of the time they show up with cupcakes and a cake, or they take ’em to lunch and they say, doc, you know what? We have these drugs that are for diabetics. They can save the life of a diabetic. But you know, you could also use it for people who wanna lose weight. What person in this world doesn’t wanna say, that aren’t gonna bite it on that? Right?
Cameron Stephenson: So you’ve got these people that think that they need to lose 15 or 20 or 25 pounds. They see these celebrities over in Hollywood that are getting on these magic pills. They think they’re gonna be able to get on for 30 days, lose weight and get off of it, and everything’s gonna be fine. That is not what’s happening, Pap. These people were not warned about what these drugs can cause. They were never intended for your average run of the mill person that needs to lose 10 or 15 pounds. And what happens is they’re getting on these drugs, they get off these drugs, and they have what’s known as gastroparesis. Okay. This is paralyzing your stomach. Now let’s think about this. You eat a meal, the meal goes into your stomach and rather than it pass naturally through the gastrointestinal tract, this paralyzes your stomach.
So food is rotting in your stomach. Alright. It’s going to come out one of two ways. You’re gonna vomit five or 10 times a day to where it gets so bad the gastric acid in your stomach is dissolving your teeth to where they fall out. Okay. That’s number one. Number two, you have what’s known as a gastric obstruction, and you actually have to go to the emergency room and have your stomach pumped. And Pap, I mean, I read an intake yesterday where a young lady, about 26 years old was trying to lose about 18 pounds. Okay. She has a gastric obstruction. She goes into the hospital, she has to have her stomach pumped, but that’s not the end of it. She has permanent stomach paralysis. And she may now, if this lasts for the rest of her lifetime, need an NG tube or fluid feeding to get nutrition that you and I take for granted on a daily basis.
Mike Papantonio: Okay. First of all, two things, Cameron, I want, the viewers have to know this. First of all, your experience as a trial lawyer is extraordinary. You’re one of the best trial lawyers we have in house. Second of all, the cases you’ve worked are massive. You’ve worked the J&J talc case, you’ve worked PPI, you’ve worked a whole string of some of the most important pharmaceutical cases in the country. Now I wanna ask you this question. When you look at this case, compared to the stuff that you’ve worked, how do you rate it as far as seriousness?
Cameron Stephenson: It is as good as any of them.
Mike Papantonio: As serious, as serious as.
Cameron Stephenson: The injuries, like I said, the story that I just told you is serious. This case has the potential to be one of the biggest cases that I’ve ever worked on. I think that this case has the potential to be one of the biggest cases that our firm has worked on. We’re gonna have to see how this plays out because these people are just now getting injured. We have no idea what’s gonna happen in the next 20 to, you know, in the next one to two years. But if I could leave you with one other thing, Pap.
Mike Papantonio: Well, you can leave me with, we’re gonna talk about, the viewers need to know, before we get to that, let me ask a couple of questions. What the company did is they tried to mimic what they call the GLP enzyme. It’s an enzyme that helps your stomach slow down so you can get nutrition as you’re eating. In other words, if you eat, you want to slow it down a little bit because you have to absorb the nutrition.
Cameron Stephenson: Correct.
Mike Papantonio: So they mimic that it’s a hormone. They mimic that and they slowed it down way too much. The test that I’ve seen, and I’m sure you’ve seen the same tests, is when they ran a comparison. This is a person that’s taking these drugs. This is a person who isn’t. The regular movement through the bowels was four minutes natural compared to 70 minutes. And so what you’re saying is that if it doesn’t move through the bowels, it simply just clogs your system up.
Cameron Stephenson: Correct.
Mike Papantonio: And we’re even seeing cases, aren’t we, where women are saying, you know, I feel full all the time, and when they do an endoscopy, they say, yeah, because you have food all the way up almost to your mouth. That’s been stored
Cameron Stephenson: Exactly. And so the bigger issue there, Pap, is not only does it delay it, but they did not test it enough and do the adequate clinical trials to get a full statistically significant sample size. So when you say it delays it 70 minutes, what a very significant patient population is seeing is that it takes hours. It takes days. Some people have permanent stomach paralysis. And if I can go back to just one thing, I whenever I was following this company announced first quarter earnings about six weeks ago, their stock was up 15% in one day.
Mike Papantonio: Wow.
Cameron Stephenson: That is one training session. And if you compare that in context to the average annualized return of the S&P 500, the 500 best companies that we have is 8% a year. They did 15% in one day. And whenever, even their own executives were on CNBC, Pap, they were talking about how they shattered Wall Street’s expectations about earnings per share. Because this class of drugs, these three drugs, they were writing prescriptions like they didn’t even anticipate. And guess what that means? When you compare the amount of prescriptions that they’re writing, not that they’re writing, but the amount of prescriptions that are being sold by this company’s products, the patient population that the FDA approved these drugs for, the amount of prescriptions that are being sold are multiples of what the patient population is. So you know off-label promotion and marketing is occurring.
Mike Papantonio: It’s all off-label. And the detailers, they get paid bonuses according to how many drugs they sell. So they show up at the doctor, I’m not kidding, it’s these little cutesy perky types. Show up with cupcakes, doc, happy birthday. Oh, by the way, you can use this as a diet drug. What doctor, first of all, there’s a couple problems here. Any doctor in America right now should be on notice, stop doing that doc.
Cameron Stephenson: 100%.
Mike Papantonio: Do not tell your patients this is safe. And if people watching this are going to a doctor and their doctor said, oh yeah, don’t worry about it. That’s just a bunch of nonsense. Look, let me tell you something. I’ve watched your career, I watched you handle one of the, the Johnson and Johnson talc case. And one thing that I’ve heard you talking about is that these companies, they look at how much money are we gonna make? Are we gonna make $10 billion a year on this drug? Right?
Cameron Stephenson: Yes.
Mike Papantonio: Now, the company makes $10 billion and they say, you know, at the end of the day, after we hurt all these people, we only have to pay $3 billion. So we have a net of $7 billion every year that we’ve made. And so that’s how these companies think. It’s a ghoulish analysis. And unfortunately, when you dig into this, I know you’re gonna be one of the people trying these cases, when you dig into it, are you gonna find that the clinicals were gamed? That the clinicals were hustled to make it look like this is not a problem? That’s my prediction.
Cameron Stephenson: Time and time again, in these cases, your prediction is gonna end up being correct. They are designed to limit the ability to detect certain things, plain and simple. And when you’re talking about profits over people, Mike, you’ve been doing this for decades, right? I’ve been doing it for 15 years. This is not the first chapter of big pharma profits over people. It sure as hell isn’t gonna be the last chapter. This is the next chapter.
Mike Papantonio: Serious injury, people can die, people’s lives can be changed. We don’t even know where this gut paralysis goes at this point. We have no epidemiology to understand how serious it is. These women that are saying, well, this is gonna go away. Maybe not. Probably not. And if they’re not calling somebody right now, and if they’re not telling their doctor, you know what, doc, you really dropped the ball on me. Any doctor, I’m telling you, any doctor at this point, that is saying, yes, use this for weight loss. They are a malpractice target when a client goes, when it goes bad with a client.
Cameron Stephenson: 100%. I think just like the American public, you know, the sheet was pulled over their eyes. But at this point in time, you can’t just pretend this isn’t happening.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Well, I’m glad you’re working on it. I really honestly feel like you’re one of the best trial lawyers in the business. You’ve got great experience. Bring this one home. Okay.
Cameron Stephenson: I will do, Pap. I appreciate you having me.
Mike Papantonio: Yep. That’s all for this week. But all these segments are gonna be available throughout the next week. And make sure you follow us on Twitter @AmericasLawyer. I’m Mike Papantonio and this has been America’s Lawyer, where we tell the stories that corporate media, well, they won’t tell you because they’re advertisers, they don’t let ’em tell those stories or their political connections don’t allow for it. We’ll see you next time.