Health

People are willing to spend on weight loss drugs, according to a new survey

Boxes of Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy are seen at a pharmacy in London, Britain, March 8, 2024.

Hollie Adams | Reuters

Demand for weight loss drugs is booming in the United States, despite limited insurance coverage and monthly prices of around $1,000 without discounts.

However, some patients are willing to pay more out of pocket for these treatments than others – and this desire depends heavily on their annual income.

This emerges from a current survey by Evercore ISI focused on GLP-1, a new class of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity. Between January 24 and February 20, the company surveyed more than 600 participants who are currently taking a GLP-1, are thinking about taking the therapy, or have taken it in the past but no longer do so.

The findings on how much patients are willing to spend highlight concerns about equity in access to the breakthrough drugs while insurance coverage is sparse.

GLP-1s include Novo NordiskWegovy, the blockbuster weight loss injection product, and Ozempic, its diabetes counterpart, along with Eli Lilly’s popular weight loss treatment Zepbound and diabetes injection Mounjaro.

A monthly package of a GLP-1 costs between $900 and $1,350 without insurance and other discounts. Both Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly have done this Savings programs The goal is to reduce out-of-pocket costs for weight loss medications, regardless of whether the patient has commercial insurance coverage.

The majority – nearly 60% – of people surveyed with annual incomes of more than $250,000 said the maximum price they would be willing to pay out of pocket for a GLP-1 was more than $300 per month is.

Only about 4% of people with annual incomes of less than $75,000 said the same. Of this group, 64% said the maximum price they are willing to pay out of pocket for a GLP-1 is $50 per month or less.

According to the survey, the maximum number of people currently receiving a GLP-1 program who are willing to pay out of pocket per month was close to what they actually paid for the treatment. Respondents with the highest price would accept a lower payment if they were those who have previously taken a GLP-1 or are thinking about taking the drug.

More than half of people currently taking GLP-1 reported paying a monthly cost of $50 or less out of pocket. Nearly 75% of those who had previously taken one of the drugs said they had spent the same amount.

A small portion of both groups paid more than $750 out of pocket per month for a GLP-1.

The survey also asked respondents how long they had been taking the medication.

Notably, more than 80% of those who received treatment previously received therapy for only 12 months or less. Some people discontinued treatment because of cost, while others discontinued treatment because they were meeting their weight loss goals or experiencing side effects.

That some patients are stopping their treatment early is a concern for some insurers, who are hesitant to cover them.

Still, nearly half of people currently taking GLP-1 said they plan to take the medication long-term. Only 10% of those considering treatment said the same. Of this group, more than 70% said they planned to continue taking GLP-1 until they reached their weight loss goal.

The survey also asked participants whether they would resume taking GLP-1 if they began to gain weight again after stopping the drug. The majority of patients across all groups—those currently taking GLP-1, thinking about taking one, or who have previously taken one—said “yes.”

Of those who had previously taken GLP-1, 42% said they had regained “some” weight after stopping treatment. About 13% said they got most of it back, while 23% said they got it all back. Another 23% said they continued to have lower weight after stopping the medication.

This weight gain is consistent with what has been observed in some clinical trials of drugs such as Wegovy and Zepbound.

In another part of the survey, participants were asked whether taking GLP-1 affected their eating and drinking habits.

More than 70% of those surveyed said they eat less when taking GLP-1, regardless of whether they have previous illnesses. This refers to other health problems such as diabetes, asthma or high blood pressure.

The survey’s finding is no surprise: GLP-1s work by mimicking a hormone produced in the gut to suppress a person’s appetite and regulate blood sugar. Some treatments like Zepbound mimic more than one gut hormone.

More than half of those without previous illnesses said they drank less alcohol while taking a GLP-1. Around 27% said treatment had no effect on their alcohol consumption, while 22% said they abstained from alcohol.

A larger proportion – 51% – of those with underlying medical conditions said they abstained from alcohol. The remainder said they consumed less alcohol when taking GLP-1.

Several Studies have shown that certain GLP-1s reduce alcohol consumption in rodents and monkeys. However, further research on humans is needed.

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—CNBC’s Gabriel Cortés contributed to this report

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