Paula Deen the gift that keeps on giving

Paula Deen the gift that keeps on giving

Just when it looked as if the comedy known as Paula Deen couldn’t get any wackier, several news outlets are now reporting that her sons were furious she made the deal with Novo Nordisk (NYSE:NVO) as she was already on a different medication and was doing well on that medication. According to a story from the New York Post; “Paula’s sons, Jamie and Bobby Deen, were upset over her deal to hawk Novo Nordisk’s Victoza because she was already taking a different diabetes medicine and responding well to it, sources told us. They said the sons “were worried about her health and didn’t want her to switch drugs. She had been taking a different drug for a while, and was doing very well.” They didn’t see any reason to change that.”

Now as we noted yesterday Diabetic Investor could care less about this fat, cheeseburger eating, stupid, hypocrite (although one has to admit she makes great copy) yet we are amazed that Novo continues to employ Ms. Deen. It seems that Novo is following the old Hollywood adage that any publicity is good publicity as long as it gets people talking. Well if that was their goal, Novo got what they wanted and got it in spades.

The way Diabetic Investor sees it the main stream media knows practically nothing about diabetes and even less about the drug approval process. This can be seen in the way many of these news outlets have portrayed type 2 diabetes as some sort of plague as if people with type 2 diabetes are the lepers of the 21st Century. Yes type 2 diabetes is a serious disease and when not properly managed it can and will lead to many serious complications. However, type 2 diabetes is very manageable, there are host of great drugs that can used to treat it, great devices that manage it and plethora of web sites and blogs devoted to it. Frankly if a patient with type 2 diabetes chooses to take their disease seriously there is no shortage of great people willing to help them.

Yet the main stream media knows one thing and one thing only which is to grab someone’s attention and keep them coming back for more. This is why Novo is taking such a huge risk here, what happens when these journalists who know nothing about diabetes and even less about diabetes drugs start looking into Victoza, what will they find? Here is a sample of what’s being said:

Paula Deen’s sons were so distraught over her decision to plug a $500-a-month diabetes drug, they nearly bolted from the family management to strike out on their own.” – New York Post

“The drug is both expensive ($500/month) and potentially dangerous” –

“In fact, Deen’s favored Big Pharma diabetes product might be as questionable as the meat she promotes. The FDA approved Victoza in January 2010, but it did so amid strong evidence of a link to thyroid cancer. In April 2009, the FDA’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee voted 12-1 that rodent data linking the drug to thyroid cancer could apply to humans. The committee got hung at 6-6 (with one abstention) on whether the cancer risk was ground for FDA rejection. The drug eventually won approval anyway.” –

The last thing Novo needs is the main stream media characterizing Victoza as expensive, a very risky move especially when you consider that Bydureon, which was just approved yesterday and is dosed once-weekly rather than once-daily, has actually been priced cheaper than Victoza.

Nor does Novo want the main stream media poking around Victoza and its FDA experience (not a good one) or it’s adverse event profile. Having been at the panel meeting for Victoza Diabetic Investor can state this was not one of Novo’s finer moments. The company took a small issue, the risk of thyroid cancer, and made it into a big issue. This is the reason Victoza and now Bydureon carry a black box warning over the thyroid cancer risk. The fact is while the incidence of thyroid cancer has been increasing over the past 20 years, the mortality rate from thyroid cancer remain very low. Most main stream journalists will not dig into the numbers as Diabetic Investor has, they will see the word cancer associated with Victoza and the headlines will follow.

Diabetic Investor does not want to minimize any form of cancer as all forms of cancer should be taken seriously. That being said, like all diseases there are cancers and then there are CANCERS, and of all the various forms of cancers thyroid cancer is slow growing, treatable and unlikely to cause a patient’s death.  Something Novo noted in great detail during the Victoza panel meeting. Novo’s problem was they should have stopped there instead they spent nearly 75% of the panel meeting discussing this issues making it seem like bigger deal than it actually was, a blunder that cost both Victoza and now Bydureon a black box warning.

Of greater concern would be if these journalist start digging deeper and here things like pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer, two very serious conditions. Although there is no scientific evidence that indicates that Victoza or any GLP-1 for that matter actually causes either of these conditions, all one has to do is visit the Victoza web site and they will find the following passage: “Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) may be severe and lead to death. Before taking Victoza®, tell your doctor if you have had pancreatitis, gallstones, a history of alcoholism, or high blood triglyceride levels since these medical conditions make you more likely to get pancreatitis.” Or the Victoza label which states; “Pancreatitis: In clinical trials, there were more cases of pancreatitis among Victoza®-treated patients than among comparator-treated patients. If pancreatitis is suspected, Victoza® and other potentially suspect drugs should be discontinued. Victoza® should not be restarted if pancreatitis is confirmed. Use with caution in patients with a history of pancreatitis (5.2).”

As we learned from the Lantus/cancer issue or the Byetta/pancreatitis issue, when it comes to diabetes and the main stream media, the main stream media never lets the facts get in the way of a good story; especially when the headline has two attention grabbing words – diabetes (which impacts 8% of the population) and cancer (which scares everyone).

Given that the Paula Deen situation isn’t going away, and now that her family has become involved it’s likely to get even worse, Diabetic Investor sees Novo getting the attention but also coming under fire. It’s been said many times be careful what you wish for as it might actually come true. The spotlight is shining on Novo and the company isn’t looking too good under the bright lights.