The cost of expanding U.S. Medicare prescription drug coverage to pay for expensive, new obesity medications could be catastrophic, health economists warned in a report published on Saturday. Big-selling diabetes drugs have been repurposed as obesity treatments after demonstrating weight loss of more than 20% in clinical trials. While they are far more effective than older drugs, lifetime use might be required to keep lost weight off.
Once-weekly injections of Novo Nordisk’s (NOVOb.CO) Wegovy, for example, cost more than $13,000 per year in the U.S. after rebates and discounts. Mounjaro from Eli Lilly and Co (LLY.N), expected to gain U.S. approval for obesity next year, retails at $1,540 for a one-month supply for diabetes.
Presently, Medicare is forbidden by law from paying for antiobesity prescriptions. But should the bipartisan The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act get reintroduced and passed by Congress, Medicare will be compelled to cover drugs for weight loss. Health economists writing in The New England Journal of Medicine estimate that if 10% of Medicare recipients with obesity diagnoses used prescription weight loss drugs, annual part D spending would be $26.8 billion for Wegovy compared with $1.32 billion for a generic version older Qysmia from Vivus Inc.
Excerpted from Reuters