TikTok stars tout diabetes drugs as miracle weight loss aid, QAnon successes at US midterms, and greenwashing at COP27
DIABETES DRUGS ARE A TIKTOK WEIGHT LOSS TREND, AND NOW MY GRANDMOTHER CAN’T GET HER MEDS
Scrolling through the #ozempic on Tiktok, hundreds of videos with tens of thousands of views document the dramatic physical transformations of users who are not diabetic but taking a drug approved for managing type 2 diabetes to catalyze their weight loss.
It’s even been rumored that Kim Kardashian, who reportedly lost over 15 pounds in three weeks, took the drug to fit into her infamous Marilyn Monroe dress. Ozempic is not currently FDA-approved for chronic weight management, but the compound semaglutide, which can also be found in the brand name drug Wegovy, was approved last year to treat adults with obesity.
Growing up, I became used to the pharmaceutical advertisements that seemed to fill every commercial break on cable television. The jingle that accompanied an advertisement for Ozempic sticks out in my head because it used the refrain “oh, ho, ho it’s magic” from the 1974 hit song by Pilot. But I also remember that the commercial was specific about Ozemipic not being a weight loss drug.
But the drug is being promoted like a miracle solution for weight loss amongst Hollywood’s elite, shared with users worldwide through TikTok, and even backed by billionaire Elon Musk. Its popularity, however, has made it increasingly difficult to access, making it especially challenging for people looking to manage their diabetes.
My grandmother, currently fighting cancer and also a type 2 diabetic, told me that she experienced a delay in receiving the Ozempic medication prescribed to her. “I have two things going on. And if I gain weight, I need more insulin. Then my diabetes becomes uncontrollable, right? And so now I’m in a loop, because I need the oncology medicine to be sure that the cancer doesn’t come back,” she told me.
Her doctor warned her at the outset that it could take a few months for her to get it.
“It’s wanted worldwide,” she told me, “And it’s wanted because I read that you can lose anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds and do nothing. No exercise. No change in your diet. Nothing. So it’s like a panacea.”
She described to me that, typically, she’s able to access her prescriptions the same day after the doctor prescribes them. When she got to the pharmacy, she said that she was told the drug wasn’t available. Luckily though, it took only a week for her to get her prescription filled.
She’s grateful that she has insurance to help cover the cost of the medication, but she’s frustrated about the lack of access. “The selfishness that’s worldwide is unbelievable, and diabetes doesn’t just exist in a vacuum. I’m angry that the people who need this drug are not getting it.”
IN GLOBAL NEWS
First up, a quick recap of the U.S. midterm results, QAnon edition. An estimated eight winning candidates, including Arizona State Senator Sonny Borrelli, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and Arizona State Representative Leo Biasiucci, have all been linked in some way to the QAnon conspiracy movement. Biasiucci and Borrelli both spoke at a QAnon convention in Las Vegas last year (ticket price: $700), while Miller spoke at a similar event in Dallas. But it’s not all bad news, as my colleague Ellery Biddle pointed out from her home state of Pennsylvania in our sister newsletter, Authoritarian Tech. Two darlings of the digital disinfo scene — Christian nationalist and QAnon devotee Doug Mastriano and Covid skeptic celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz (known for pushing science-free fad diets, detoxes and cleanses) — both lost their bids for office.
Big oil is everywhere. It’s sponsoring climate newsletters. Its lobbyists are flooding the ongoing COP27 climate change meeting in Egypt. And, irony of ironies, the PR firm in charge of communications for COP27, Hill and Knowlton Strategies, also reps Big Oil. Specifically ExxonMobil, Shell, Aramco — and that old favorite, Chevron. Hundreds of scientists have signed a petition calling on the firm to drop its fossil fuel clients. “We firmly believe that Hill and Knowlton’s work for these clients is incompatible with its role leading public communications at the annual United Nations climate talks,” their letter argues. Big Oil, they add, has “used Hill and Knowlton and other PR agencies to spin, delay, and mislead, in order to continue expanding fossil fuel production and thereby increasing heat-trapping emissions.” The letter accuses Hill and Knowlton of “enabling” fossil fuel-backed disinformation campaigns. “It’s an almost comical conflict of interest that Big Oil’s spin doctors are also in charge of communications for the UN climate talks,” Dr. Geoffrey Supran, a Harvard researcher who studies fossil fuel disinformation and propaganda tactics, told DeSmog, a climate news platform which, incidentally, you should definitely be following.
Princess Martha Louise of Norway has renounced her royal duties in order to focus on her alternative medicine business with her husband. She’s engaged to an American shaman who is notorious in Norway for his pseudoscience practices and conspiracy theories. He’s said that having cancer is a “choice,” claims to be a reincarnated Egyptian Pharaoh, and believes 5G is a creation of “those who want to enslave the planet.” Princess Martha Louise, who says she can speak with angels, lost her “Royal Highness” title back in the 2000s after she did work as a clairvoyant. She said in a statement that she was “aware of the importance of research-based knowledge. I also believe, however, that there are components of a good life and sound physical and mental health that may not be so easy to sum up in a research report.”
WHAT WE’RE READING
- “We continued deeper inside China’s quarantine apparatus, the kind of place that finds you, rather than the other way around.” You must read this gripping, chilling account of life on an island quarantine detention center in China, by the Financial Times correspondent Thomas Hale. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since reading it. Like our piece about the man who escaped locked-down Shanghai hidden in the back of a car, it reads like dystopian fiction. But it’s not.