: ‘There’s no way that patients are going to be able to afford that.’ Why aren’t new drugs that can help you lose weight more widely used?

by | Oct 4, 2022 | Stock Market

A pair of new drugs offer something many Americans desperately want: a way to lose weight.  In clinical trials, Novo Nordisk’s
Wegovy helped adults lose about 15% of their body weight. The drug, which received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year, had such a successful launch that it’s now in short supply. Eli Lilly’s
tirzepatide, meanwhile, is still in clinical trials, but data from a Phase 3 trial showed that people taking the drug lost up to 22% of their body weight. 

For the roughly 42% of Americans who are obese, these results are nothing short of a miracle.  Wall Street is thrilled, predicting a global market for the drugs as big as $54 billion by 2030. And physicians feel they finally have a new treatment option for their patients. “I was prescribing Wegovy almost as fast as I could,” said Elizabeth Fryoux, a physician who practices obesity medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.  And there is more research coming: Lilly and Novo are also running studies to figure out if the same drugs can reduce the risk of death or improve outcomes for conditions like high blood pressure and stroke that often go hand in hand with obesity. But there are roadblocks to getting these therapies to patients who need them. Late last year, Wegovy ran into supply issues brought on by a combination of high demand and production issues involving the syringes used in the pens that inject the medication. The issues are expected to resolve sometime before the end of the year. The stigma surrounding obesity, meanwhile, may be discouraging insurers and policymakers from covering these drugs.  The drugs developed by Novo and Lilly to treat obesity have both been approved, in different formulations, to treat Type 2 diabetes. Those therapies — Novo’s Ozempic and Lilly’s Mounjaro, which got FDA approval in May — are covered by Medicare, the federal health-insurance program for older adults and people with disabilities. Medicare doesn’t cover Wegovy or other FDA-approved weight-management therapies, including Vivus’ Qsymia.  “If we have a drug that is Wegovy that is for weight loss, and it’s not covered, but we have a drug that is Ozempic, and it’s for diabetes, the …

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