Dec 19, 2023

Senate Testimony Underscores Staggering Potential Cost of High-Priced Weight Loss Products for Consumers and U.S. Health Care System

During a hearing last Thursday in the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) titled, “What is Fueling the Diabetes Epidemic?,” expert witness Kasia Lipska, M.D., M.H.S, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, highlighted Big Pharma’s egregious prices on a new class of weight loss drugs, known as GLP-1s, and the staggering potential costs for patients and the health care system.

GLP-1s grew out of a category of medicines originally designed for treating diabetes, so it’s no surprise that the pharmaceutical industry appears to be bringing the same price-gouging playbook previously used on products like insulin, to this new category of medications.

Read some of what Dr. Lipska had to say during the hearing:

Kasia Lipska, M.D., M.H.S, Associate Professor of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine: “There has been so much excitement about the new medication in type 2 diabetes and obesity because some of the medications, including Semaglutide and Ozempic really seem to work. They not only help people lose weight but also, importantly, reduce the risk of complications related to diabetes and obesity. But the price tags for these new medications are simply outrageous. 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. 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…”

“…Ozempic has been priced at roughly $100 per month in Sweden and just $80 in Australia and France. That’s 10 percent of what we’re being asked to pay…”

“…The reality is that the drug industry is really good at pushing its solutions and its products. Drug companies are powerful, sometimes more powerful than governments. Novo Nordisk, which is based in Denmark, now has a market value that is bigger than its host nation’s GDP. So, we must remember that drugs alone can’t save us. They are only part of the solution. We can’t simply prescribe our way out of this problem.”

“…These prices are, as I said, outrageous and what happens is that patients cannot afford those medications and so they go without. And we know these medications have effects in terms of reducing the risk of heart disease. When people go without, they are at risk for these complications. They would be healthier if they were able to afford them.”

Ahead of the hearing, CSRxP released a new fact sheet demonstrating how Big Pharma is already bringing its price-gouging playbook to these new GLP-1 drugs. Read the full fact sheet HERE.

Read more about how Big Pharma charges the highest prices in the world for these drugs in the U.S. HERE.

And learn more about market-based solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable and lower prescription drug prices HERE.