Why Doesn’t Medicare Cover Weight Loss Drugs?

New obesity drugs are showing promising results in helping some people shed pounds but the injections will remain out of reach for millions of older Americans because Medicare is forbidden to cover such medications. Drugmakers and a wide-ranging and growing bipartisan coalition of lawmakers are gearing up to push for that to change next year.

As obesity rates rise among older adults, some lawmakers say the United States cannot afford to keep a decades-old law that prohibits Medicare from paying for new weight loss drugs, including Wegovy and Zepbound. But research shows the initial price tag of covering those drugs is so steep it could drain Medicare’s already shaky bank account. A look at the debate around if — and how — Medicare should cover obesity drugs:

What obesity drugs are on the market and how do they work? The Food and Drug Administration has in recent years approved a new class of weekly injectables, Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Zepbound, to treat obesity. People can lose as much as 15 percent to 25 percent of their body weight on the drugs, which imitate the hormones that regulate appetites by communicating fullness between the gut and brain when people eat.

Excerpted from PBS

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