According to manufacturer Novo Nordisk, Wegovy (semaglutide) has a list price of $1,349.02 per package. A package is four pre-loaded pens that provide a month’s supply of the medication. Wegovy is taken as a once-weekly, subcutaneous (under the skin) injection. The $1,349.02 price tag is the list price not the cost to the consumer and it is before any medication discounts or rebates are applied.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), U.S. healthcare spending increased 9.7% to reach an astonishing $4.1 trillion in 2020. Compare this to the 4.3% increase experienced in 2019. About one-third of this cost increase was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Retail drug spending increased by 3% to $348.4 billion in 2020. This was lower than the 4.3% increase in 2019. Prescription costs may have gone down because people are spending less and using coupons for prescription drugs more.
GoodRx tracks prescription pricing. In January 2021, they reported that 832 drugs had increased by an average price increase of 4.6%. There are many reasons why pharmaceuticals are more expensive in the U.S. than in other countries with comparable economies. When pharmaceutical companies manufacture a new medication, they are entitled to 20 years of market protection with no competition.
The goal of patent protection is to encourage manufacturers to develop new products. Patent protection allows them to recoup the costs of product innovation and development, licensing, and clinical trials.
Novo Nordisk developed semaglutide in 2012 as a longer-acting alternative to liraglutide. Their first brand-name medication for semaglutide was Ozempic, which is an injectable medication to treat type 2 diabetes. Ozempic was approved for medical use in the U.S. in 2017. An oral form of semaglutide, Rybelsus, was approved to treat type 2 diabetes in 2019. In 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Wegovy, also known as semaglutide, but with an indication for long-term weight management in adults. Semaglutide is protected by 359 patents in thirty-nine countries, including thirty in the U.S. The Wegovy patent expires in 2032 in the U.S.
The President and CEO of Novo Nordisk, Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, says that his company is focused on the significant disease burden presented by diabetes and obesity.
“Such was the demand in the U.S. for another semaglutide product Wegovy®, that five weeks after launch, as many prescriptions were written for the anti-obesity medication as in the four years that followed the launch of its predecessor Saxenda®.” 2021 Novo Nordisk annual report.
The list price for Wegovy is $1,349 per month, but this might not be the price you will pay. First, drug manufacturers set the list price, also called the wholesale acquisition cost. Then, after wholesalers buy the drug from the manufacturer, they set an average wholesale price. The average wholesale price is typically the wholesale acquisition cost plus 20%. Wholesalers then distribute the drugs to their pharmacies. Finally, pharmacies set a usual and customary price.
Cash-paying customers may get a discount. Other ways to get a discount if you do not have insurance coverage are with pharmacy coupons or manufacturer discounts.
While Wegovy is expensive, the cost of obesity is also extremely high, both financially and in terms of your health.
The Strategies to Overcome & Prevent Obesity Alliance (STOP) from the School of Public Health & Health Services at George Washington University estimates that the annual cost of having the chronic disease, obesity, is approximately $4,879 for a woman with obesity and $2,646 for a man with obesity. These costs (lost wages, absenteeism, cost of personal goods, medical costs, short-term disability) for people with obesity are 15 times higher than the total costs for overweight people, regardless of gender or employment status. The medical costs for treating people with adult obesity in the U.S. range from $147 billion to $210 billion.
Obesity is a chronic disease, and like many chronic diseases, it increases your risk for other diseases such as
Carrying excess weight affects nearly every body system. It decreases your lifespan and your quality of life. Losing as little as 5% to 10% of your body weight can tremendously impact your overall health. Just 5% weight loss can improve metabolic markers and cardiovascular risk factors.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), a 5% weight loss is considered clinically significant and is the bar set for weight management medications to meet. In addition, the FDA would like to see at least two well-designed clinical trials to ensure the results aren’t due to chance alone.
To test Wegovy, Novo Nordisk scientists have run eight Semaglutide Treatment Effect in People with Obesity (STEP) trials, a STEP TEENS trial, and a Semaglutide Effects on Cardiovascular Outcomes in People with Overweight or Obesity (SELECT) Wegovy clinical trial. There are currently 236 studies registered on clinicaltrials.gov that mention semaglutide.
During the 68-week clinical trials, average weight loss ranged from 15% to 17%. This is a significant weight loss that can affect your quality of life and reduce your risk of developing other chronic diseases.
There is robust clinical trial evidence that semaglutide is a very effective medication for chronic weight management. But, will it be worth it for you? To answer that question, you will need to weigh the semaglutide benefits and side effects with your healthcare provider. Semaglutide is expensive, but it is a very effective treatment for a chronic disease that affects nearly half of U.S. adults.
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While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice