At least 25,000 people in the US are starting weight-loss drug Wegovy each week, drugmaker says | CNN (2024)

At least 25,000 people in the US are starting weight-loss drug Wegovy each week, drugmaker says | CNN (1)

Wegovy remains in shortage, but drugmaker Novo Nordisk says it is building more capacity to make the drug.


Drugmaker Novo Nordisk said it’s been increasing supply of its sought-after weight-loss drug Wegovy, with at least25,000people now starting to take the medicine each week in the United States.

That’s more than a capacity crowdat Madison Square Garden, which holds19,500 people.

It’s about five times more than were able to start the medicine each week in December, the Danish pharmaceutical giantsaid in an earnings call Thursday.

“Thereisavery,verysignificantdemand,” Novo Nordisk Chief Executive Officer Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen told CNN Thursday in an interview. “So for the foreseeable future, we believe the demand will outgrow supply. But we are gradually releasing more and more doses to the market.”

A view shows the Novo Nordisk sign outside their office in Bagsvaerd, on the outskirts of Copenhagen, Denmark, March 8. Tom Little/Reuters/File Related article Sanders launches Senate investigation into ‘outrageously high’ pricing of Ozempic, Wegovy

The company, which also makes Ozempic for type 2 diabetes, has beenlimitinghow much of the lowest doses of Wegovy it has made available for the past year to avoid having too many new patients start the medicines amid a shortage. The drugs are designed to be started at lower doses that gradually increase over time in order to limit side effects like nausea.

BothNovo NordiskandEli Lilly, which makes competitor drugs Mounjaro and Zepbound, have been working to combat shortages of the medicines amid unprecedented demand. The companies have been both buying andbuildingmanufacturing plants totry to keep up, but the shortages — as well as difficult insurance coverage for many patients — can make the medicineshard to access.

Jorgensen said Novo Nordisk has one plant in the US and one in Denmark that make the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Wegovy and Ozempic, called semaglutide, and that they’re building two more in Denmark.

The company has also expanded capacity at existing plants that do “fill-finish,” the next steps in the manufacturing process to put the drugs in vials or pens, he said, and acquired three additional sites with a $16.5 billion purchase of drug manufacturing company Catalent.

“We have a massive expansion program,” Jorgensen said. “So we’ll have gradual new capacities coming in line over the coming months and years to keep that journey going and reach many more patients than we serve today.”

Jorgensen called the investments in manufacturing “probably the biggest [capital expenditures] program in the history of pharmaceutical expansion,” comparing the scale of increase to the race to make enough Covid-19 vaccines during the pandemic.

“During the pandemic we had to scale up manufacturing capacity for vaccines, but that was, say, two, three, four doses per person,” Jorgensen said. “Here, we’re talking about weekly injections. We’re talking about, [for] many patients, chronic treatment.”

EliLilly, Novo Nordisk’s biggest competitor,also said this week it expects supply to increase later this year.

In this 2015 file photo, people walk past a GNC store on March 30, 2015 in New York City. Andrew Burton/Getty Images/File Related article GNC is struggling. It hopes Ozempic can give it a boost

“The demand for tirzepatide is very strong,”LillyChief Financial Officer Anat Ashkenazi said on the company’s quarterly earnings conference call, referring to the active ingredient in Mounjaro and Zepbound.

“Each week, hundreds of thousands of people fill [prescriptions] for Mounjaro and Zepbound, yet we understand the frustration from those facing prescription delays or uncertainties getting their medicine,” Ashkenazi continued. “While we are working tirelessly to ramp supply and expect meaningful increases in shipment volumes in the second half of the year, demand continues to outstrip even increased supply.”

Prescription data shows that Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic is the most widely prescribed drug of the four major ones in the class, known as GLP-1 receptor agonists after the gut hormone they emulate. Lilly’s medicines also mimic a second hormone, called GIP. They all work by reducing appetite, regulating insulin and slowing digestion of food to make people feel full for longer.

There are more than 500,000 total prescriptions for Ozempic each week in the US, according to data cited by financial firm BMO Capital Markets. Lilly’s Mounjaro is the second-most prescribed medicine in the group, with around 300,000 weekly prescriptions. Both of those medicines are approved for type 2 diabetes, but doctors also prescribe them off-label for weight loss.

Ozempic was the first of the four to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, in December 2017. Wegovy was approved in June 2021, Mounjaro in May 2022 and Zepbound in November 2023.

Ultimately, the drugs are expected to be much more widely used for weight loss than type 2 diabetes, given how many patients fall into each category. BMO analyst Evan Seigerman, who follows the stocks of both Lilly and Novo Nordisk, said he estimates GLP-1 drugs globally will bring in $74 billion in diabetes in 2030, and $104 billion by then in obesity.

Insurance coverage has been more difficult for drugs approved primarily for weight loss, although both Novo Nordisk and Lilly said this week that was improving in the US.

Get CNN Health's weekly newsletter

Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.

About 50 million Americans currently have insurance coverage for Wegovy, Jorgensen said, and Lilly told investors this week that about 67% of Americans with commercial insurance have coverage for Zepbound. Jorgensen also said Medicaid coverage is improving, noting “a number of states have opted in and see that there’s value in treating patients living with obesity.”

Wegovy wasshownin a major clinical trial last year to not only aid with weight loss, but also to prevent heart attacks, strokes and heart-related death in people at elevated cardiovascular risk, potentially increasing demand for the medicine even further, but also improving insurance coverage; the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services subsequently said Medicare plans could cover the medicine for heart benefits.

“We are only getting to, say, a million Americans so far out of the 50 million” whose insurance would cover Wegovy, Jorgensen said. He noted a million is the number of patients who have ever been prescribed Wegovy in the US, and fewer are currently taking the medicine, though he didn’t specify precisely how many. More than 40% of US adults are estimated to have obesity, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or about 100 million people.

“So I think availability of medicines is probably a bigger challenge than, actually, access” through insurance coverage, Jorgensen said.

At least 25,000 people in the US are starting weight-loss drug Wegovy each week, drugmaker says | CNN (2024)


At least 25,000 people in the US are starting weight-loss drug Wegovy each week, drugmaker says | CNN? ›

Drugmaker Novo Nordisk

Novo Nordisk
Novo Nordisk manufactures and markets pharmaceutical products and services, specifically diabetes care medications and devices. Its main product is the drug semaglutide, used to treat diabetes under the brand name Ozempic and obesity under the brand name Wegovy. › wiki › Novo_Nordisk
said it's been increasing supply of its sought-after weight-loss drug Wegovy, with at least 25,000 people now starting to take the medicine each week in the United States. That's more than a capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden, which holds 19,500 people.

Can you really get Wegovy for $25? ›

Without insurance or discounts, Wegovy can cost more than $1,200 a month. If you're eligible for Novo Nordisk's Wegovy savings card program, you could get a 28-day supply or one box of Wegovy for $25.

How much weight can you lose in a month with Wegovy? ›

Based on data from randomised controlled trials, you can expect to lose up to 5% of your weight in a month on Wegovy. After two months on Wegovy, you could lose up to 8%.

Will doctors prescribe Wegovy for weight loss? ›

To qualify for a prescription of Wegovy, a patient must have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, indicating having obesity, or a BMI of 27-29 and a weight-related chronic health condition, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Does insurance pay for Wegovy? ›

Most major insurance plans cover Wegovy, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna, and United Health Care, but coverage may vary with each plan. Benefits offered by employer plans also vary, and coverage is often based on what employers are willing to cover.

How do you get $25 Wegovy without insurance? ›

If you don't have health insurance you won't be able to get Wegovy for $25 or for free. However, you might be able to get your costs reduced by up to $500 a month if you're an uninsured cash payer through the Wegovy savings card. Wegovy Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

Can I get Wegovy for free? ›

Novo Nordisk makes Wegovy. It offers the Wegovy Savings Card program that you can use to get a discount on Wegovy or get Wegovy for free. If you have private or commercial insurance that covers Wegovy, with the program you could get a 28-day supply for free depending on what your insurance pays.

How long does it take to lose 40 lbs on Wegovy? ›

Katherine Saunders, an obesity expert at Weill Cornell Medicine and co-founder of the obesity treatment company Intellihealth. “To me, it's a help, it's an aid,” said Donna Cooper of Front Royal, Virginia, who lost nearly 40 pounds (18 kilograms) in nine months using Wegovy along with diet and exercise.

Can I lose 20 pounds in a month with semaglutide? ›

So with each higher dose, we should continue to see more and more weight loss. Remember that this is the average weight loss. We did have patients who lost a moderate amount but we also had patients losing over 15 pounds and even over 20 pounds in the first month!

Can I lose 100 pounds on Wegovy? ›

A study found that 87% of patients on Wegovy lost more than 10% of their body weight, while around 10% lost between 1–10%, and less than five percent gained weight. The drug isn't cheap.

What pill is equivalent to Wegovy? ›

Saxenda (Liraglutide)

It works in exactly the same way as Wegovy - by making users feel full so they eat less and lose weight.

What is the poor man's Ozempic? ›

Psyllium Husk Is Being Called the 'Poor Man's Ozempic'—Can It Really Help You Lose Weight?

What's cheaper than Wegovy? ›

Is there a cheaper version of Wegovy? While still expensive overall, Zepbound and Saxenda are cheaper than Wegovy, though this may vary depending on your insurance coverage.

What insurance company covers Wegovy? ›

CVS Health Corp.'s Aetna insurance unit, Elevance Health Inc., and nonprofit insurer Kaiser Permanente said in statements that they would cover Wegovy for reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

How to get Wegovy affordable? ›

Get Wegovy® savings

Subject to a maximum savings of $225 per 28-day supply (1 box) for up to 13 fills for commercially insured patients with coverage for Wegovy®. If you pay cash for your prescriptions or your commercial insurance does not cover Wegovy®, you can save $500 per 28-day supply (1 box) of Wegovy®.

Why would insurance deny Wegovy? ›

But that may not translate to wider insurance coverage of the weekly injection drug from Novo Nordisk and similar obesity treatments just yet. Some employers and other health plans are still reluctant to cover Wegovy due to its hefty $1,350 monthly price tag, which they say could significantly strain their budgets.

How to get Wegovy at a lower cost? ›

Wegovy costs about $270 per weekly dose without insurance but can be available for as little as $0 per dose if your insurance covers the cost. The drug manufacturer offers drug savings cards to some patients, which can cut the weekly price by around $40 to $230 per weekly dose.

How do I get semaglutide for $25 a month? ›

If you have private or commercial insurance, such as insurance you receive through an employer, you may be eligible to pay as little as $25 for a 1-, 2-, or 3-month prescription (maximum savings of $150 per 1-month prescription, $300 per 2-month prescription, or $450 per 3-month prescription).

What is the average out-of-pocket cost for Wegovy? ›

Novo Nordisk (the manufacturer who makes Wegovy) lists the price of Wegovy at $1,349.02 for a 28-day supply. This list price reflects the out-of-pocket cost of Wegovy without health insurance. Wegovy is an injectable medication for weight management. Patients use prefilled injection pens once a week.

Is there a cheaper version of Wegovy? ›

Is there a cheaper version of Wegovy? While still expensive overall, Zepbound and Saxenda are cheaper than Wegovy, though this may vary depending on your insurance coverage.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Roderick King

Last Updated:

Views: 6164

Rating: 4 / 5 (51 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Roderick King

Birthday: 1997-10-09

Address: 3782 Madge Knoll, East Dudley, MA 63913

Phone: +2521695290067

Job: Customer Sales Coordinator

Hobby: Gunsmithing, Embroidery, Parkour, Kitesurfing, Rock climbing, Sand art, Beekeeping

Introduction: My name is Roderick King, I am a cute, splendid, excited, perfect, gentle, funny, vivacious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.