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Big Medicine Loves Big Media

(the not-so-hidden conflicts of interest*)

Cookhouse Hero is a member of the PCRM - Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, based in Washington DC. During a recent PCRM webinar, I learned about a CBS 60 Minutes segment titled Obesity, produced by Ayesha Siddiqi and narrated by journalist Lesley Stahl. One of the sponsors of CBS is Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharma corporation founded in 1923. It has about 50K employees, their NYSE stock is at $138.23 / $113.38 euros (on 1.27.23), and their 2022 revenue was $24.3B / 22.4 euros (annual report states: this is a 12.37% increase year-over-year. Novo Nordisk annual revenue for 2021 was $22.401B, a 15.18% increase from 2020). Their mission is to help defeat diabetes, rare bleeding disorders, growth hormone-related disorders, and obesity. The home page marketing states that they're driving change for generations, driving change to conquer stigma about obesity, and driving change so all children can live a full life.

Aside from the usual marketing manipulation that pulls at our psychological heart strings,

this all sounds pretty cool, right?

Let's go deeper... In the US, pharma advertising is controlled (somewhat), and any infringement of ad laws can be brought to the attention of the courts. And the PCRM did just that (see link below). They called foul, because they observed that the report was an elaborate ad for a new anti-obesity drug produced by Novo Nordisk called Wegovy. They pointed out that a clear violation exists because CBS is sponsored by Novo Nordisk, and thus, this is unlawful pharma marketing and a conflict of interest. After they went public with their claim, the PCRM was contacted by a competitor of Novo Nordisk (another global pharma corporation), who asked for more information on the PCRM's legal complaint. Looks like this other pharma company might be interested in fair and balanced representation in the media, or maybe they want to stop their competition, or perhaps they don't want to get in trouble themselves so they're researching what not to do in the future. Furthermore, according to the PCRM response, pro-drug doctors interviewed by CBS received $100K+ / 92K+ euros from Novo Nordisk. What stuns me most about this compensation is how out-of-touch some talking-heads can be.

Do paid-off physicians think they're untouchable or that the public is blind? Apparently so.

Now the plot thickens... Enter the 60 Minutes YouTube channel that titled this segment as a "Promising new weight loss medication in short supply and often not covered by insurance" (see link below). Clever click-bait marketing by the way. Plus, of all the news programs on TV and online these days, the 60 Minutes brand has been considered to be credible journalism. This is important to note, because it holds weight when reporting on any given subject. Turns out, like many journalistic-style programming, this is no longer the case. I miss Walter Cronkite's generation, with respect due to a handful of investigative journalists today such as Christiane Amanpour, Lester Holt, and Chris Wallace.

Here are ten key highlights of the segment...


  • Sponsorship: Ms Stahl introduced the report by including information about Novo Nordisk as a sponsor of CBS. 

  • DNA: Information about genetics as a primary factor in obesity falsely stated that it's over 90%. Actually, it's about 10% - 20%, more towards the 10% range specifically with obesity (stats are misleading since environmental and cultural factors, friends and family peer pressure, and how often people move their body all play a part. Primarily, it's the foods and beverages, plus fitness levels, stress, and sleep. DNA plays a small role).

  • Doctors: According to one featured talking-head, doctors don't know anything about obesity (I can name dozens of doctors just off the top of my head who would prove that's inaccurate). 

  • Insurance: If obesity were classified as a disease, which isn't currently the case in the US, insurance companies would need to look at it differently and include it in conditions covered (this is similar regarding food addiction in the US, as it's currently not classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - DSM-5).

  • Shame: The shame surrounding obesity is profound. Those who try and fail to lose weight feel lost and alone.

  • Wegovy: The drug Wegovy costs $1300 / 1200 euros per month and is in demand. Some celebrities who don't suffer from obesity are using it as a kind of diet pill.

  • (So-Called) Experts: The primary expert in the report is a woman whose medical accolades are impressive (she's clearly on the side of conventional medicine and perhaps doesn't know what she doesn't know... with all due respect. Also keep in mind her generous payoff for so-called expertise, along with others in this report).

  • Gaslighting: Physicians throw shade on obese people, and they don't believe people are actually trying to lose weight (although this is true with some healthcare professionals, it's not true in the plant-community. Ever.).

  • Outcomes: The short-term side effects and long-term research study outcomes are yet to be verified completely (yet the US FDA has already approved Wegovy for commercial use).

  • Public Comments: Many of the comments under this report on YouTube showed a deeper level of critical thinking. Many comments focused on insurance companies, pharma conglomerates, and hospitals/doctors that get richer, while we humans suffer from food and beverage addiction and engage in unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices.

This report never once discussed plant nutrition, lifestyle, stress, or sleep in regards to obesity solutions.


Also not brought up: a lack of food-science education in medical schools, cultural realities and peer pressure, laws and dietary guidelines that favor the meat-dairy-egg industries, food and beverage addiction, or bliss points and crave-ability factors created by Big Food and Big Beverage to make us addicted in the first place (this is real). The main reason for this information silence is because, according to this bogus report, obesity is primarily in our DNA. End of story. 


I cannot stress this enough when learning about health, wellness, and living a possible hospital-free life: heads up, do your own deep-dive research, don't let reports like this one convince you that the only way out of obesity (and other conditions) is through a pill, powder, or surgery. Get educated. Your life and the lives of those you love depend on it. Finally, to be fair, not all aspects of drug companies and media outlets are crooked. Some help people, inform patients, and have positive intentions. For example, one woman in the segment got her insurance company in her state (RI) to pay for Wegovy. In her case, nobody is saying that what she's doing is wrong. Good for her. Yet, if I could wave a magic wand, I'd love to introduce her to Cookhouse Hero and all the experts and advocates on the CH Resources page. But I digress. 


I'm primarily illustrating how these types of partnerships have become so massive, and in many cases so deeply hidden, that these David vs Goliath types of scenarios can feel like a losing battle. But Cookhouse Hero, PCRM, Nutrition Facts, Center for Nutrition Studies, Wellness Forum Health, and many others continue to fight the good fight. Shiny academic degrees, somber journalistic tones, and starched medical jackets don't cover up what's real. We deserve better.

* Novo Nordisk isn't alone. This article simply highlights only one conflict of interest practice that exists in the Big Medicine universe. The same can be said about CBS in the Big Media universe.

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