Pharma

Paula Deen Dropped by Diabetes Drugmaker


Paula Deen attends the 2013 South Beach Wine and Food Festival

Photograph by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

Paula Deen attends the 2013 South Beach Wine and Food Festival

The Paula Deen defections have reached diabetes drugmaker Novo Nordisk (NVO), the latest company to end a contract with the butter-loving celebrity chef, who is herself a diabetic.

Corporate reactions to the disclosure of Deen’s statements in a lawsuit deposition that she used racist language has been swift, with marketers and broadcasters fleeing. “Right now we’re letting her focus on what she needs to do … which is how she’s rebuilding her relationship with the public,” says Novo Nordisk spokesman Ken Inchausti. Deen’s contract with the pharmaceutical company was to have run through 2013, he adds, and the decision to end the partnership was mutual. The company’s “Diabetes in a New Light” campaign—offering recipes and other guides for managing diabetes—will shift away from Deen and her two sons, Jamie and Bobby.

Novo Nordisk sells Victoza, a drug that stimulates insulin production, with sales topping $1 billion last year. Deen has said she uses the drug and has appeared at public events for the company. Her relationship with the drugmaker was born in controversy: It coincided with Deen’s appearance last year on NBC’s Today show to reveal her Type 2 diabetes, diagnosed three years earlier. Many felt she was cashing in on a disease that was caused by the kind of high-calorie, fat-laden diet promoted in the recipes she prepared and celebrated on national television.

Even before her diabetes disclosure, Deen had plenty of critics. Her Food Network colleague Anthony Bourdain said in a 2011 interview with TV Guide that Deen’s foods made her “the worst, most dangerous person” on the network. “She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations, and she’s proud of the fact that her food is f–––ing bad for you,” Bourdain said. “If I were on at seven at night and loved by millions of people at every age, I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it’s OK to eat food that is killing us.”

When Deen announced her deal with Novo Nordisk, she wrote on her website that she “wanted to take control” of managing her diabetes “and have a delicious time doing it. Of course, I will continue to share my favorite Southern recipes, just like my mama, grandmother, and family shared with me over the years. And now, I’ll be adding a little bit of a lighter touch to some of these wonderful dishes.”

To date, Food Network, Great American Country, Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), Home Depot (HD), Caesars Entertainment (CZR), Smithfield Foods (SFD), and Novo Nordisk have ended their commercial relationship with Deen. QVC, the shopping network, said it is reviewing its relationship with her.

Bachman is an associate editor for Businessweek.com.

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Companies Mentioned

  • NVO
    (Novo Nordisk A/S)
    • $46.02 USD
    • 0.90
    • 1.96%
  • WMT
    (Wal-Mart Stores Inc)
    • $76.64 USD
    • -0.13
    • -0.17%
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