NextMed: A young, controversial telehealth startup taps into Ozempic

Great public appetite for weight loss drugs is fueling business for startups like NextMed, which pivoted from COVID-19 testing to online prescriptions for drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro, drawing criticism in the process. 

NextMed is a telehealth services company founded in 2020 as a COVID-19 testing business, The Wall Street Journal reported March 4. In July 2022, the platform changed its focus to prescriptions for diabetes drugs that have surged in popularity for weight loss. The company connects clients to physicians who write them prescriptions, and then charges recurring monthly fees for refills. Robert Epstein, NextMed's founder, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in December 2021 with bachelor's degrees in economics and computer science.

NextMed's web traffic has exceeded that of competitors that have advertised weight-loss prescriptions for longer in part due to its aggressive advertising campaigns, which have raised questions among health professionals, the Journal reports. 

The Journal said NextMed ads it reviewed lacked drug-risk information and promoted Ozempic for a use that has not been approved by the FDA. Before-and-after photos feature dramatic weight loss among people who are not NextMed clients, and one customer-review site questioned the authenticity of some of the company's reviews. NextMed also removed an ad programmed for Instagram, stopped running TV ads, and modified or pulled parts of its website after The Journal asked the company questions. 

NextMed told the Journal it works to comply with all applicable advertising requirements.

It would seem that NextMed is but one telehealth company focused on newly popular weight loss drugs and services, given that the article ends with a call from the newspaper for testimonials and contact information from users of "online weight loss services like NextMed, Calibrate, Sunrise or Ro to get GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic."

The Journal previously analyzed telehealth companies' promotion of medications, including weight-loss pills, finding that ads on social media platforms plugged their benefits and promoted them for unapproved uses, while excluding information about risks. In response, congressional leaders called for more oversight of advertising from telehealth companies, which are not regulated by the same rules as pharmaceutical companies.

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