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Ozempic maker sued by Iowa woman over alleged side effects

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Ozempic maker sued by Iowa woman over alleged side effects

Dec 04, 2023 | 5:11 pm ET
By Clark Kauffman
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Ozempic maker sued by Iowa woman over alleged side effects
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Ozempic is a semaglutide, an anti-diabetic medication used by some patients for long-term weight management. (Photo via Canva)

An Iowa woman is suing the makers of the popular drug Ozempic, claiming the company has downplayed potential side effects while spending millions on food and travel for prescribing doctors.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 53-year-old Melissa Huffman in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, alleges Novo Nordisk and its affiliates are guilty of fraudulent concealment and negligent failure to warn in the manufacturing and marketing of the drug Ozempic.

The drug, which is approved for the treatment of type-2 diabetes, has become extraordinarily popular in recent years, in part because it can help some patients lose weight. In her lawsuit, Huffman alleges that Novo, in an effort to promote Ozempic, has spent more than $11 million on 457,000 meals for almost 12,000 doctors. In addition, the company has allegedly flown some physicians to destinations such as London, Paris, Orlando and Honolulu.

Since 2018, the company has allegedly spent more than $884 million on television ads in the United States to promote semaglutide drugs such as Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelsus, with most that of that expense specifically tied to ads for Ozempic.

In February 2023, the number of active Ozempic prescriptions in the United States peaked at 373,000, the lawsuit claims.

According to the petition, the class of drugs to which Ozempic belongs creates an increased risk of gastroparesis, or stomach paralysis, which is a disorder that can weaken the stomach’s muscle contractions and slow the process of digesting food. The condition can result in abdominal pain, intestinal obstructions and vomiting. Novo, the lawsuit claims, was aware of the need to warn patients and prescribing physicians of the risk of gastroparesis but failed to do so.

That lawsuit alleges that a July 2021 research article funded by Novo itself found that Ozempic injections induced nausea in up to 20% of patients, and vomiting or diarrhea in in up to 11.5% of patients. In addition, an October 2022 study that analyzed 5,442 adverse gastrointestinal events tied to the class of drugs to which Ozempic belongs found there had been 40 deaths, 53 life-threatening conditions and 772 hospitalizations.

The lawsuit alleges that the Ozempic label lists nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and constipation as common adverse reactions, but does not include these reactions in the “Warnings and Precautions” section of the label, and instead warns of delayed gastric emptying in the “Drug Interaction” section of the label. The statements on the label, the lawsuit claims, “do not disclose gastroparesis as a risk of taking Ozempic, nor do they disclose gastroparesis as a chronic condition that can result as a consequence of taking Ozempic.”

Huffman alleges that as a result of using Ozempic, she suffered from gastroparesis and sustained “severe and permanent personal injuries” that resulted in vomiting, diarrhea and extreme abdominal pain. She had to take additional medications to treat her symptoms and made multiple emergency room visits due to her condition, the lawsuit alleges.

Huffman is represented by the Chicago law firm of Dicello Levitt. Novo Nordisk has yet to file a response to the allegations.