The process of getting a hold of weight-loss medications for people has now become an extremely difficult task, if they can obtain it all- as these medications have grown to be exceedingly popular for a variety of reasons. Usually, the drugs in this class are meant to treat people with diabetes, but more recently they have been popularized for their ability to help users lose weight. These medications are usually injected weekly and have sticker prices that go as high as $16,000 a year.
Currently, about 3.8 million people in the United States are now taking the most popular weight-loss drugs- which is four times the number two years ago- according to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, an industry data provider.
Some of these prescriptions are for diabetes, including the medicines Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy (the same drug being sold under different brand names), and Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro and Zepbound (also the same drug).
Demand is becoming pent-up, as many people who want the drugs cannot find or afford them. Without insurance coverage, people must pay out of pocket. The supply for these drugs is also consistently diminishing due to the fact that only a limited number of plants in the world are ready and available to make the injectable medications, which are more difficult to manufacture than pills.
Another issue surrounding this is that insurance companies often won’t pay, and the drugs are too expensive for most people to pay. Medicare, the federal program that covers people 65 and older and disabled adults, is prohibited by law from covering medications for the treatment of obesity- and few people under Medicaid, the state-federal program for people with low-incomes, receive coverage.
In a survey conducted last Fall by the independent pharmacists trade group, 153 pharmacists claimed they had to turn a patient away because they were losing money on the weight-loss drug. This issue derives from Pharmacy Benefit Managers (P.B.M.s) paying considerably low rates to pharmacists to sell the drugs, which doesn’t help the fact these medications already have extremely high costs, which are set by the drug manufacturers.
All of these conflicting factors along with the fact that weight-loss drugs are so scarce that even when insurance companies pay for them, they can still be hard to obtain, make this class of medications an increasingly unstable treatment for obesity and diabetes.