The US Pays More For Newer Weight Loss Drugs Than Its Peers: Report

The prices charged for drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro are significantly higher in the U.S. when compared with other wealthy nations, with the list price being 10 times lower in some countries, according to a new analysis from KFF.

As KFF’s analysis found, a one-month supply of Ozempic — which is indicated for diabetes but is sometimes prescribed for weight loss off-label — has a list price of $936 in the U.S. Among the nine other countries that KFF looked at, none paid more than $200 for a month’s supply of the same drug.

A one-month supply of Rybelsus, an oral form of the same drug found in Ozempic, also costs $936. The second-highest paying country was the Netherlands at $203 for a one-month supply.

The countries included in the analysis were the Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, Australia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

While Ozempic was available in all 10 countries, Wegovy, which is indicated for weight loss, is currently only available in three of the nations listed. When compared with the two other countries that permit Wegovy — the Netherlands and Germany — the U.S. paid about four times more.

The list price is the price set by the manufacturer and does not necessarily reflect what consumers will pay themselves. As KFF noted, U.S. patients can potentially get a 28-day supply of Wegovy for as low as $225 for a year through a coupon if their health insurance plans cover the drug.

Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelsus are all brand names of semaglutide, made by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk. Semaglutide mimics a hormone known as GLP-1 that is secreted in response to food intake and encourages insulin production while also suppressing appetite.

“What impact these drugs have on total health costs in a country will depend not just on the net prices for the drugs, but also on how many people use them,” the KFF analysis noted. “The U.S. has by far the highest rate of obesity among peer nations—a third of adults (33.6%) have obesity in the U.S. compared to an average of 17.1% across peer nations.”

Previous KFF polling had found that nearly half of U.S. adults said they were interested in taking a weight loss drug if it was “safe and effective.” Getting the hefty price of the drug covered presents a challenge, however.

While interest in these newer weight loss medications grows, so too does awareness of the possible side effects. Recent attention has been focused on Ozempic and Wegovy’s potential side effect of “stomach paralysis,” when the stomach doesn’t process food or empty itself and the digestive process is disrupted.

Insurance companies often don’t cover weight loss medications, as they consider obesity to be a cosmetic issue as opposed to a disease. Still, there is growing interest in expanding coverage of these drugs.

A coalition of lawmakers reintroduced the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act last month which would expand Medicare coverage to include weight loss services and medications such as Wegovy. Novo Nordisk was among the groups that endorsed this legislation.

Supporters of the bill argued that obesity needs to be treated like a chronic illness similar to others that are normally covered.


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