(CTN News) – In a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), blockbuster weight-loss drugs are revealed to be significantly more expensive in the United States compared to other large, high-income countries. This price differential has raised concerns among U.S. health insurers, leading some to remove these medications from their coverage plans.
With an average monthly cost of around $1,000, these weight-loss drugs, known as GLP-1 agonists, pose a financial challenge to insurers, especially given their long-term usage. However, a substantial portion of the 100 million obese American adults find it difficult to afford these treatments out of pocket.
KFF’s analysis compared list prices, representing the cost set by drug manufacturers before accounting for insurance or discounts. Unlike some countries that negotiate directly with drugmakers to establish lower list prices, the U.S. lacks such negotiations, contributing to the vast price differences.
International Price Variations: Negotiations and Accessibility
For instance, Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug Ozempic used off-label for weight loss, is priced at $936 for a 30-day supply in the U.S. In sharp contrast, its list price in Japan is only $168, and even lower in countries like Germany ($103), Sweden ($96), and France ($83).
The pricing divide extends to Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, another weight-loss drugs with the same active ingredient as Ozempic. While its list price is over $1,300 in the U.S., it is merely $328 in Germany. Eli Lilly’s diabetes drug Mounjaro, also employed off-label for weight loss, demonstrates similar disparities, with a U.S. list price of $1,023 compared to $319 in Japan and $444 in the Netherlands.
The impact of these list prices is not only felt through patchy insurance coverage but also evident in patient interest. A recent KFF survey highlights that almost half of U.S. adults express a general interest in prescription weight-loss drugs, but this figure drops to a mere 16% if the medication lacks insurance coverage.
Approximately 80% of respondents believe that insurance companies should cover weight-loss drugs costs for overweight or obese adults, and half suggest coverage should extend to anyone seeking to use these medications for weight loss.
Promising Health Benefits: Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction
Recent trial data from Novo Nordisk adds momentum to the push for expanded insurance coverage. The trial revealed that Wegovy, besides promoting weight loss, reduces the risk of serious heart problems and heart-related death by 20% in overweight or obese patients with cardiovascular disease.
This underscores the potential broader health benefits of obesity drugs. However, insurance industry representatives maintain that more comprehensive data is required to warrant expanded coverage.
In conclusion, the significant pricing disparity of weight-loss drugs between the U.S. and other nations raises concerns about accessibility and affordability.
As patient interest remains high when coupled with insurance coverage, the debate surrounding broader coverage continues, with Novo Nordisk’s recent trial results potentially playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of weight-loss drugs accessibility.