Dose of Reality: CBO Confirms Big Pharma’s Egregious Prices on Weight Loss Drugs Are Unsustainable

Mar 22, 2024

CBO Says Cost to Taxpayers of Covering GLP-1 Medications Would Outpace Savings from “Reducing Other Health Care Spending”

In case you missed it, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently predicted that covering GLP-1 weight loss drugs “at their current prices, would cost the federal government more than it would save from reducing other health care spending.”

The comments from CBO underscore how the egregious prices set by Big Pharma on these products are unsustainable for patients, taxpayers and the U.S. health care system.

During a December hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP), expert witness Kasia Lipska, M.D., M.H.S, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, explained how Big Pharma’s egregious pricing practices on this new category of drugs present staggering potential costs.

“The price tags for these new medications are simply outrageous,” Dr. Lipska said. “Ozempic, the brand name for Semaglutide approved for type 2 diabetes and marketed by Novo Nordisk, has a U.S. list price of over $900 per month. Wegovy, the brand name for the same drug approved for obesity, is $1,300 per month…”

“…If Medicare were to fully cover Wegovy for all of its beneficiaries with obesity for one year, we as American taxpayers would end up with a $268 billion invoice,” Dr. Lipska continued. “To give you some perspective, that’s 70 percent of all the money that was spent on prescription drugs in the U.S. in 2021. And could we stop at one year? Probably not. What we know about Semaglutide and the related medications is that they work while people take them. However, as soon as they stop, their weight comes back, so patients are looking at a potentially lifelong treatment, and we could be facing the most expensive subscription service in the history of medicine.”

Dr. Lipska also highlighted how Big Pharma has targeted the U.S. for egregious prices compared to prices for the same drugs in other countries. “Ozempic has been priced at roughly $100 per month in Sweden and just $80 in Australia and France,” Dr. Lipska said. “That’s 10 percent of what we’re being asked to pay.”

Despite setting out-of-control prices on these drugs from the start, Big Pharma is already hiking their price at rates outpacing inflation. Policymakers should hold Big Pharma accountable for the industry’s unsustainable price-gouging on weight loss drugs.

Read more about Big Pharma’s egregious pricing practices on GLP-1 weight loss drugs HERE and HERE.

Read more on Big Pharma’s anti-competitive tactics around GLP-1 weight loss drugs HERE.

Read more on bipartisan, market-based solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable HERE.