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20 Oct

The actual winner of the Ozempic craze? Big Pharma

The actual winner of the Ozempic craze? Big Pharma

Corporations have a protracted history of manipulating beauty standards for profit, and now a recent class of weight-loss drugs helps pharmaceutical corporations line their pockets

It’s almost unimaginable to assume a world without beauty standards. But while they might look like an inescapable a part of life, they don’t appear out of thin air. They’re the product of a series of historical and material conditions driving what we collectively come to value in society. And under capitalism, the profit-motivations of the market mean we’ll proceed to be trapped within the limitless cycle of always fluctuating beauty standards calling for BBLs in the future and Ozempic shots the following. 

The history of corporations manufacturing recent beauty standards, particularly for girls, to be able to make a profit is well-documented. Within the mid-1910s, Gillette, seeking to widen their audience, launched the first razor marketed to women and initiated the expectation of hairless legs and underarms that might proceed for the following 100 years. Prior to the discharge of the ladies’s razor, there have been no cultural expectations that body hair was unhygienic or unattractive. Gillette didn’t meet demand, it created it – as did L’Oréal, which introduced the weekly hair washing routine, and Helena Rubenstein, who developed the thought of “skin types” to sell cosmetics.

Beauty standards for bodies have cycled throughout history and with each of those “recent” beauty ideal comes, conveniently, an onslaught of services and products promising to supply results, and fast. Within the late nineteenth century, women in Paris would paint the veins on their arms and necks blue with a highlighting keep on with appear more pale and sickly, a glance that might come back around within the 90s “heroin chic” trend. Meanwhile, the supplements sold to women within the Nineteen Fifties to achieve curvier bodies mirror products like Apetamin which promised to assist people achieve the “slim-thick” Kardashian bodies of the 2010s. 

The newest of those products is Semaglutide, sold under branded names Ozempic and Wegovy. Despite its growing list of negative negative effects – vomiting and nausea, lack of feelings of enjoyment, potential paralysis of the stomach and possible links to suicidal thoughts and self-harm – sales have shot through the roof, launching manufacturer Novo Nordisk’s $413B market value to exceed the complete GDP of Denmark, the country that hosts the corporate. The truth is, Novo Nordisk has made a lot profit it’s pushed up the worth of the Danish krone and driven down mortgage rates within the country.

So what’s driving Ozempic’s wild popularity as a fast and dirty weight reduction strategy? Most have pointed to social obsession with thinness because the offender. Nevertheless, viewing the Ozempic mania purely from the demand side – people wish to be thin, so that they create demand for straightforward weight reduction solutions – misses the forest for the trees. In spite of everything, with all this social pressure for weight reduction, who stands to achieve? 

A survey of 1,000 Americans by The Intake found that while 24 per cent of Ozempic-curious respondents attributed their interest within the drug to social media, it paled as compared to doctor recommendations. 41 per cent of respondents claimed that their interest in Ozempic was resulting from a advice from their doctor. 18 per cent of medical practitioners surveyed reported prescribing the drug for weight reduction. Perhaps it’s not only weight reduction obsession driving demand, but a flood of Big Pharma marketing behind the newfound interest in semaglutide. In the worldwide capitalist economy, pharmaceutical corporations are out for one thing: profit. 

Pharmaceutical corporations’ placement of profits over people is nothing recent. Perhaps essentially the most notorious example is present in the opioid epidemic. In 2020, Purdue Pharma, the producer of opioid painkiller OxyContin, pled guilty to federal charges regarding the aggressive sale and marketing of opioids. With the help of major consulting firms like McKinsey, Purdue and other pharmaceutical giants flooded the healthcare system with over-prescription of opioid-based painkillers. Together, they knowingly sought to curtail doctors’ hesitancy to make medically unnecessary prescriptions and manufactured a drug crisis that robbed over half 1,000,000 people of their lives.

With regards to weight reduction drugs, over time pharmaceutical corporations have pushed products like amphetamines, Obetrol and fen-phen, all of which were later found to have dangerous, if not deadly, negative effects. After all, Ozempic has only a fraction of the risks of OxyContin. But are the nefarious marketing tactics behind them really all that different? Between partnerships with millennial-minimalist telehealth corporations, which frequently lack follow-up mechanisms to watch negative effects, flooding cities like Latest York with promoting – on the edges of buses, the steps of the subway – and the corporate’s own “savings card” as if it were a coffee loyalty program, semaglutide’s popularity isn’t any accident.

“The spectacle is in a position to subject human beings to itself since the economy has already totally subjugated them,” Marxist philosopher Guy Debord wrote in his 1967 book, The Society of the Spectacle. In other words, the full control that a capitalist consumer economy exerts over the masses then bleeds into the control exerted by social “spectacles” – i.e. popular culture, mass media, promoting, celebrities – on human beings. “It’s nothing apart from the economy developing for itself.”

The proliferation of Ozempic and the $78 billion weight reduction industry at large is an example of how an financial system built on the necessity for infinite expansion will ultimately find itself seeping into every nook and cranny of our lives. A capitalist system is due to this fact incentivised to artificially produce demand for such products. Insecurity provides a highly profitable consumer base – in other words, it’s not that an inherently skinny-obsessed culture produces demand for drugs like Ozempic. It’s that a capitalist system saw a chance to earn money and took it. 

The large profits of weight-loss drugs are already proving not enough for shareholders. Drug manufacturers at the moment are racing to develop a pill type of semaglutide to make it more palatable to the general public, because it is currently only available as an injectable, which may turn many users off. The pill form, nevertheless, will likely include a much higher dose of the lively ingredient, jumping from 2.4mg of semaglutide in the present injectable to 50mg within the pill. Novo Nordisk’s clinical trial of the pill found that, amongst users who were obese or obese but didn’t have diabetes, 80 per cent reported gastrointestinal issues – nearly twice as many because the control group. 

We will’t tackle the “corporate greed” of Big Pharma or eliminate industries built on sowing insecurities without tackling the complete capitalist system that produces them.

While modern medicine has made powerful advances in treatment for a wide selection of medical conditions, the unlucky reality of the pharmaceutical industry is that it’s required by the capitalist system to place profit over people. Nobody was rushing, for instance, to create various different types of semaglutide when it was just a medicine for diabetes, the condition it was originally developed to treat. And if one pharmaceutical company didn’t push for profits in any respect costs, it will simply be beaten out by a competitor who would. 

As Marxist sociologist Vivek Chibber argues, “Capitalists aren’t motivated by greed but by market pressures.” In other words, the degrees of greed of individual capitalists may vary widely, but all are subject to the identical market pressures of a capitalist system that requires corporations to maximise profits to be able to survive. Because of this, we are able to’t tackle the “corporate greed” of Big Pharma or eliminate industries built on sowing insecurities without tackling the complete capitalist system that produces them. 

Capitalism perverts what would otherwise be life-changing improvements in medicine for hundreds of thousands of individuals. The usage of Ozempic and other types of semaglutide for weight reduction has contributed to a supply shortage, making it more difficult for diabetics to fill their prescriptions. To pharmaceutical corporations like Novo Nordisk, nevertheless, the difference is null so long as the cash is green. To actually challenge unrealistic and unhealthy beauty standards, we may have to transcend feel-good ad campaigns promoting body positivity, and as a substitute tackle the capitalist system that produces these unfair beauty standards in the primary place.

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