This photo illustration shows a selection of injection pens for Wegovy weight loss drug taken on March 31, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.
Jim von Drusska | Reuters
Only about a third of patients were prescribed diet pills such as Novo NordiskA Year Later, Wegovy’s Blockbuster Injection Continues—But Total Medical expenses Shares of the entire group soared, according to an analysis shared with CNBC on Tuesday.
Analysis shows patients spent an average of $12,371 per year in medical costs before they started taking weight-loss drugs primary therapyone of the largest pharmacy benefit managers in the United States
The average cost of care rose nearly 60 percent to $19,657 after patients started treatment, the analysis said.
In the analysis, a group of patients who did not take the weight-loss pills experienced an average 4% drop in medical costs over the same period.
The analysis examined U.S. pharmacy and medical claims data for more than 4,000 people with commercial health care plans who received new prescriptions for weight-loss drugs between January and December 2021.
These patients were diagnosed as obese, prediabetic, or with a body mass index of 30 or higher.
Diet pills, also known as GLP-1 agonists, mimic hormones produced in the gut to suppress a person’s appetite.
New findings highlight the high prices of popular weight-loss drugs, most of which have monthly out-of-pocket costs of more than $1,200.
This cost can also become a burden for insured patients, who may see health plan copays and deductibles for drugs increase over time.
“While the industry is expected to see broader FDA approval of GLP-1a drugs for weight loss in the near term, our analysis suggests that significant upfront financial investment is required when using these drugs to treat weight loss,” said Dr. Joseph Leach, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Prime Therapeutics.
PBMs such as Prime Therapeutics act as middlemen, negotiating drug discounts with manufacturers on behalf of health insurers, large employers and other contracted parties.
The company’s analysis also showed that adherence to treatment with Wegovy or similar drugs was poor after more than a year, after which patients typically see significant weight loss.
For example, Wegovy resulted in a 15 percent weight loss after 68 weeks, according to clinical trials of the drug.
The Prime Therapeutics analysis did not indicate why patients stopped taking their weight-loss drugs.
But many users said the ongoing shortage of Wegovy forced them to stop treatment.
Novo Nordisk clinical trials have shown that some patients stop treatment due to unpleasant side effects such as gastrointestinal problems.
Novo Nordisk did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the Prime Therapeutics analysis.
Shares in the Danish company fell nearly 3 percent on Tuesday after Reuters first reported the analysis.
pharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lilly and Pfizer The company is targeting the weight-loss industry after Wegovy and diabetes drug Ozempic gained national attention in recent years.
Social media influencer, Hollywood celebrity and billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk They reportedly used popular injections to lose weight.
but experts explain These drugs may further perpetuate a dangerous eating culture that idealizes weight loss and thinness.
More than two in five adults are obese, according to the agency National Institutes of Health.
About one in ten adults is severely obese.