Sanders Launches Senate Inquiry into Ozempic’s Outrageously High Prices, Wegovy | CNN


Senator Bernie Sanders takes aim at the high prices of blockbuster drugs Ozempic and Wegovy.

The Vermont senator, an independent who has long sued drugmakers for their expensive products, is launching an investigation into the outrageously high prices Novo Nordisk charges for drugs.

Scientists at Novo Nordisk deserve great credit for developing these drugs that have the potential to be a game changer for millions of Americans struggling with type 2 diabetes and obesity. As important as these drugs are, they won’t do anything for the millions of patients who can’t afford them, Sanders, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, wrote in a letter to the CEO on Wednesday of drug manufacturers. , if the prices of these products are not substantially reduced, they also have the potential to bankrupt Medicare, Medicaid, and our entire health care system.

Sandersis is asking Novo Nordisk to answer whether it will substantially lower drug prices, as well as provide information on how much it makes from selling the drugs, how much it spent on research and development and how it determined the prices.

Ozempic is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat diabetes and Wegovy to help some people lose weight or reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease. Both are injectable drugs that use the active ingredient semaglutide, one of a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists.

Novo Nordiskin raised Ozempic’s list price by 3.5% this year to $969 for a four-week supply, but kept Wegovy’s price unchanged at $1,349. The drugmaker told CNN in February that it raises the list prices of some drugs each year based on changes in the health care system, inflation and market conditions.

Sanders’ letter notes that researchers at Yale University recently discovered that these drugs can be manufactured cost-effectively for less than $5 a month. Also, Ozempic costs only $155 in Canada and $59 in Germany, while Wegovy can be purchased for $140 in Germany and $92 in the United Kingdom, the senator noted.

Novo Nordisk agrees with Sanders that access to medicines is important for patients, the company said in a statement. He said he remains committed to working with policymakers on ways to support access and affordability.

It’s easy to oversimplify the science that understands disease and the development and production of new treatments, as well as the complexities of the U.S. and global healthcare systems, Novo Nordisk said. However, the public debate does not always take this extremely complex reality into account.

For most Americans, the price they pay for drugs is determined by their health insurance policies, not by drug manufacturers’ list prices. However, they may have to pay list price if they are uninsured or have not yet reached their annual deductible. In addition, many drug manufacturers, including Novo Nordisk, offer savings cards and patient assistance programs that can reduce out-of-pocket costs for certain people.

Ozempic is also proving costly for the federal government, while Wegovy’s recent approval to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes is expected to add to the tab.

Medicare is not allowed by law to cover weight-loss drugs, but it will cover Ozempic for enrollees with diabetes and Wegovy for those with cardiovascular disease who are overweight or obese. It spent $4.6 billion on Ozempicin 2022, compared with $2.6 billion a year earlier, according to KFF. The analysis did not take into account markdowns, information on which is not publicly available.

Another KFF analysis found Wegovy could cost Medicare about $3 billion a year after estimated rebates.

Increased spending on these drugs will likely contribute to higher Part D premiums for all beneficiaries.

CNN’s Meg Tirrell contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the methodology of one of KFF’s analyses.

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