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Healthy Returns: Advertising Spending on Weight Loss and Diabetes Drugs Tops $1 Billion

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Boxes of Wegovy manufactured by Novo Nordisk are seen at a pharmacy in London, Britain, March 8, 2024.

Hollie Adams | Reuters

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Good afternoon! Drugmakers spent big on ads for weight loss and diabetes treatments last year as they vied for dominance in the booming market for such drugs.

Companies spent more than $1 billion on ads for weight loss and diabetes drugs in 2023, up 51% from the previous year, according to new data from the advertising company. MediaRadar advertising analysis. That’s nearly 15 percent of the $7.6 billion drugmakers spent on prescription drug advertising last year.

Diabetes treatments accounted for nearly $790 million in ad spending in 2023, while weight-loss drugs accounted for nearly $264 million.

So why is this data important? Such a surge in spending demonstrates companies’ rush to win over new customers after months of hype around Novo NordiskOzempic, the diabetes drug from and its weight loss counterpart Wegovy. Demand for these drugs has soared despite their price of around $1,000 and limited insurance coverage.

Wegovy and Ozempic “have been at the forefront of advertising, support of public figures and constant media exposure, which contributes to overall spending and has required increased advertising investments to capture and expand market share MediaRadar CEO Todd Krizelman told CNBC.

And early data this year suggests ad spending on weight-loss and diabetes drugs isn’t slowing.

Drugmakers spent nearly $120 million on ads for these treatments in the first two months of 2024, according to MediaRadar. This is a slight decrease from the same period last year, due to factors such as “prescription changes”, but it still represents 10% of overall prescription advertising spending in January and FEBRUARY.

“We expect ad spend in the diabetes and weight loss category to remain strong and even increase as brands work to capitalize on market and demand growth,” said Krizelman.

Now let’s dig a little deeper into the data.

MediaRadar compiled advertising spending across national television shows, print publications, newspapers and websites, podcasts and social media platforms from January 1, 2022 to February 29, 2024.

The company identified six drugs for weight loss and diabetes that boosted ad spending last year:

  • Ozempic from Novo Nordisk — an injection for type 2 diabetes
  • Wegovy from Novo Nordisk — an injection against obesity
  • Rybelsus from Novo Nordisk — a pill for type 2 diabetes
  • Mounjaro Elie Lilly — an injection for type 2 diabetes
  • Jardiance from Boehringer Ingelheim — a pill for type 2 diabetes
  • Farxiga AstraZeneca — a pill for type 2 diabetes

Wegovy accounted for $263 million in ad spending in 2023, which cannot be compared year-over-year since the drug was approved in 2022, according to MediaRadar. Novo Nordisk also suspended some key promotions for Wegovy in May, particularly local and national television advertising.

Ozempic spent $208 million on advertising last year, an increase of just 4% from the year before.

Mounjaro spent $139 million on advertising, 16 times more than in 2022.

Here is the ranking of advertising spending for these six drugs:

  • Wegovy: $263 million
  • Ozempic: $208 million
  • Rybelsus: $199 million
  • Jardiance: $148 million
  • Mounjaro: $139 million
  • Farxiga: $68 million

National television is the most widely used format for advertising weight loss and diabetes medications so far in 2024, MediaRadar said. The company did not provide detailed data on ad formats for last year.

Drugmakers invested 88% or more of their ad spending for Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro, Jardiance and Farxiga on television in the first two months of this year.

Rybelsus was the exception. Novo Nordisk has dedicated 63% of its advertising spend for Rybelsus to online video despite reduced investment in the format compared to 2023, MediaRadar said.

Krizelman said the shift toward spending on TV ads is due to its “broader reach and ability to target” patients more likely to be affected by diabetes and obesity. TV ads also have “a higher impact in terms of trust and credibility than online channels,” he added.

This year, I plan to monitor what spending on Eli Lilly’s new obesity treatment, Zepbound, looks like. The drug was approved in the United States in November and some analysts believe it could eventually become the best-selling drug of all time.

Stay tuned for more about our coverage on the drug and similar treatments later this year.

Feel free to send tips, suggestions, story ideas and data to Annika at annikakim.constantino@nbcuni.com.

Latest Technology in Healthcare

FDA approves first AI diagnostic tool for sepsis

Signage is seen outside the U.S. Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Maryland, August 29, 2020.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

It’s a big day for health tech startup Prenosis.

The 10-year-old Chicago-based company announced Wednesday that its artificial intelligence-based sepsis diagnostic tool has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This is the first time that the agency has authorized this type of solution.

Sepsis occurs when the body reacts in an extreme way to an infection. It is notoriously difficult to diagnose and often fatal. In the United States, approximately 1.7 million adults develop sepsis each year, and 1 in 3 patients who die in a hospital developed sepsis during that hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prenosis’ tool, called Sepsis ImmunoScore, uses 22 different parameters to help clinicians assess a patient’s risk for sepsis, according to a release. While doctors and nurses are often responsible for monitoring these factors individually, Sepsis ImmunoScore uses AI to assess them all at once.

The tool generates an overall risk score, as well as four categories that reflect a patient’s risk of deterioration, the release said. Sepsis ImmunoScore is integrated into the electronic health record and clinicians can see exactly which parameters were used to calculate the risk score.

In 2022, the FDA updated its guidance for companies and gave a number of examples of software functions of the devices it intends to oversee. The agency said software that “analyzes patient-specific medical information to detect a life-threatening illness, such as stroke or sepsis” falls into this category.

Prenosis told CNBC that while it could have directly marketed its solution, as other companies like healthcare software maker Epic Systems have done, it did not want to try to sell Sepsis ImmunoScore without the FDA authorization. The company said the approval process took about 18 months.

Prenosis will now conduct additional studies and begin selling the product to hospitals across the United States. Eventually, the company hopes its technology will appear in hospitals around the world.

Feel free to send tips, suggestions, story ideas and data to Ashley at ashley.capoot@nbcuni.com.

— CNBC’s Gabriel Cortes contributed to this report.

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