Senate Begins Investigation Into Ozempic and Wegovy Prices

Health Information Lifestyle

A Senate committee is investigating the prices that Novo Nordisk charges for its blockbuster medications, Ozempic and Wegovy, which are highly effective at treating diabetes and obesity but carry steep price tags.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said in an interview that the prices must “be lowered in order for consumers to get it, and for governments not to go bankrupt providing it.” The list price of Ozempic, which is authorized for Type 2 diabetes, is around $968 per package. Wegovy, which is approved for weight loss and to reduce the risk of heart problems in some adults with obesity, costs $1,349.02 per package.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen, Novo Nordisk’s chief executive, Mr. Sanders wrote that the committee was requesting internal communications on the prices of these drugs in the United States, which is higher than the cost in other countries. The committee also requested information on why the company charges more for Wegovy when the two medications contain the same compound, semaglutide, and asked whether Novo Nordisk would “substantially reduce” the prices of both medications. Mr. Sanders requested a response by May 8.

A spokesperson from Novo Nordisk wrote in a statement that the company agrees “that access to these important treatments is essential for patients in Medicare, Medicaid and the commercial markets,” but added that “it’s easy to oversimplify the science that goes into understanding disease and developing and producing new treatments, as well as the intricacies of U.S. and global health care systems.” The spokesperson said that Novo Nordisk “remains committed to working with policymakers to advance solutions to support access and affordability for all patients.”

Mr. Sanders said he also intended to look at Eli Lilly, which makes the rival medications Mounjaro and Zepbound.

“We’re not just picking on Novo Nordisk,” he said. “This is a problem across the board.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 42 percent of American adults have obesity, and that over 11 percent of the population has diabetes. “You think about just the sheer number of people who could be eligible for taking these products, and it starts to really boggle your mind thinking about how to pay for that,” said Stacie Dusetzina, a health policy expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Those costs are compounded by the fact that patients may need to stay on these medications for the rest of their lives, she added.

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