Senate to probe Ozempic, Wegovy's cost

A Senate committee opened an investigation into Novo Nordisk's list prices for Ozempic and Wegovy, Novo Nordisk's diabetes and weight loss drugs. 

In an April 24 letter to Novo Nordisk's CEO, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions said Ozempic and Wegovy are "exorbitantly expensive," which restricts access to the drugs for millions of Americans. 

In the U.S., a four-week supply of Ozempic costs $969, and Wegovy is $1,349. That's up to 15 times more than what Novo Nordisk charges in Canada, Europe and Japan, the letter said. 

In 2023, pharmacies, clinics and hospitals spent more than $38 billion on the two products, which contain the same drug, semaglutide. They were the No. 1 pharmaceutical expense for U.S. healthcare, according to research published April 24. 

In March, the FDA approved Wegovy for obese and overweight adults with heart disease; 3.6 million Medicare beneficiaries are in the expanded patient population. A few weeks later, researchers published findings that indicated semaglutide could remain profitable at a lower price since it costs less than $5 to manufacture. 

Uproar ensued

"If the prices for these products are not substantially reduced they [...] have the potential to bankrupt Medicare, Medicaid and our entire healthcare system," the April 24 letter said. 

For Ozempic, Wegovy and other glucagon-like peptide-1 drugs, Medicare spending reached $5.2 billion in 2022. Four years prior, the medicines cost Medicare $57 million. 

The committee asked Novo Nordisk to explain financial data on Ozempic and Wegovy, and the Denmark-based drugmaker was asked if it plans to lower the list prices. 

"It's easy to oversimplify the science that goes into understanding disease and developing and producing new treatments, as well as the intricacies of U.S. and global healthcare systems," a Novo Nordisk spokesperson told Becker's. "However, the public debate doesn't always take into account this extremely complex reality."

The spokesperson said the company agrees that Ozempic and Wegovy should be available to patients with Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance and that it is working with policymakers on access and affordability. 

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