Prescriptions for Ozempic and Wegovy Drugs Skyrocket to 9 Million
In the last quarter of 2022, healthcare providers in the United States issued over nine million prescriptions for medications like Ozempic and Wegovy, designed for managing diabetes and obesity, according to a recent analysis released by Trilliant Health. This report underscores a remarkable 300% surge in quarterly prescriptions for these drugs between early 2020 and the end of 2022.
Ozempic, a weekly diabetes injection from Novo Nordisk, constituted more than 65% of the total prescriptions by the close of 2022. Interestingly, it was frequently prescribed off-label for its potential to assist patients in shedding excess weight. These findings reflect the growing demand for this category of drugs, known as GLP-1s, which have garnered significant attention among Americans and investors for their ability to facilitate substantial weight loss. GLP-1s function by mimicking a gut hormone that suppresses appetite.
However, the future trajectory of prescription volumes hinges on whether the manufacturers, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, can address widespread supply shortages that have affected many of their treatments in the U.S., among other factors.
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than two in five adults in the United States have obesity, and about 1 in 11 adults suffer from severe obesity, underscoring the significance of treatments like Ozempic and Wegovy in addressing this health concern.
This analysis, which relies on insurance claims data for approximately 300 million Americans, also includes prescriptions for Eli Lilly's diabetes drug, Mounjaro, and an older Novo Nordisk GLP-1 drug called Saxenda. It's important to note that the total count of GLP-1 prescriptions might be an underestimate, as some health plans do not cover weight loss treatments like Wegovy, leading some patients to bear the cost themselves.
High-profile individuals, such as Hollywood celebrities and tech billionaire Elon Musk, have the financial means to pay for these drugs out of pocket. Ozempic's list price exceeds $935 per monthly package, while its weight loss counterpart, Wegovy, costs around $1,300. These drugs are intended for long-term use to maintain weight loss, similar to cholesterol-lowering medications or lifelong blood pressure treatments.
Meanwhile, other pharmaceutical companies are vying to capitalize on the burgeoning weight loss industry. Analysts suggest that Eli Lilly's Mounjaro, once approved in the U.S. for weight loss, has the potential to compete with Novo Nordisk's offerings.