On May 22, 2024
State News

Sanders: weight loss drugs could bankrupt U.S. health care

As part of his investigation into the outrageously high price of Ozempic and Wegovy in the U.S., U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released a stunning new report May 15 exposing the potential of weight loss drugs to bankrupt American health care.

In the report, HELP Committee majority staff modeled how new weight loss drugs could impact prescription drug spending, even while taking into account estimated manufacturer discounts. 

Key findings from the report include:

If half of adults with obesity took Wegovy and the other new weight loss drugs, it could cost $411 billion per year – more than what Americans spent on all retail prescription drugs in 2022 ($406 billion). 

If half of all Medicare and Medicaid patients who are obese took Wegovy and other weight loss drugs, Medicare and Medicaid could spend $166 billion per year – rivaling what Medicare and Medicaid spent on all retail prescription drugs in 2022 ($175 billion). 

Unless prices are substantially reduced, Wegovy and other weight loss drugs could push Americans to spend $1 trillion per year on all prescription drugs. 

“There is no rational reason, other than greed, for Novo Nordisk to charge Americans struggling with obesity $1,349 for Wegovy when … it costs less than $5 to profitably manufacture,” said Sanders.

If Novo Nordisk, a Danish company, charged Americans the same price it charges people in Denmark for Wegovy, the U.S. health care system could save up to $317 billion dollars per year if half of adults with obesity took the drug. Taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid alone could save $128 billion per year. 

If Novo Nordisk dropped the price of Wegovy in the U.S. down to the price in Denmark, the U.S. health care system could pay for new weight loss drugs for 100% of adults with obesity for less than the cost of covering 25% of the population with obesity at current U.S. net prices annually.

“Today’s report makes it crystal clear: The outrageously high price of Wegovy and other weight loss drugs have the potential to bankrupt Medicare and our entire health care system,” Sanders said. “The unjustifiably high prices of these weight loss drugs could also cause a massive spike in prescription drug spending that could lead to an historic increase in premiums for Medicare and everyone who has health insurance. The United States Congress and the federal government cannot allow that to happen. There is no rational reason, other than greed, for Novo Nordisk to charge Americans struggling with obesity $1,349 for Wegovy when this same exact product can be purchased for just $186 in Denmark, $137 in Germany, and $92 in the United Kingdom, while it costs less than $5 to profitably manufacture.”

On April 24, 2024, the HELP Committee launched an investigation into the outrageously high prices Novo Nordisk is charging for Ozempic and Wegovy in the U.S. On April 30, Chairman Sanders commended the Federal Trade Commission for taking bold action against the bogus patents Novo Nordisk has filed to prevent Americans from receiving a generic version of Ozempic at a much lower price. On May 13, Chairman Sanders wrote an op-ed on the front page of the Danish paper Politiken to appeal to Denmark’s longstanding commitment to social justice and to win their help in urging Novo Nordisk to reduce the outrageous price in the U.S.

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