Most Americans have heard of the drugs and demand is outpacing supply.
Health insurance companies should cover new antiobesity medications that are booming right now, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).
The new glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) inhibitor medicines have generated a swell of public attention for potential beneficial health effects. They are costly, but so are the health consequences of obesity, which affects both medical bills and quality of life, according to AMA. The association this week urged insurance companies to help patients access the new drugs as obesity rates climb.
“Providing evidence-based treatment options that include weight loss medications aligns with a comprehensive, multimodal approach to effectively manage obesity is important to reduce health complications,” AMA Trustee Bobby Mukkamala, MD, said in a news release. “The AMA will urge health insurers to provide coverage of available FDA-approved weight-loss medications, including GLP-1 medications, to demonstrate a commitment to the health and well-being of our patients.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the GLP-1 inhibitors semaglutide and tirzepatide for treating Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and obesity. Semaglutide is the active ingredient in the drugs Ozempic for T2D and Wegovy for weight loss, while tirzepatide is marketed as Mounjaro to treat T2D and Zepbound for weight loss.
AMA said: “The cost of medications for weight reduction can be a significant access barrier for people with obesity unless their health plan provides coverage. This policy is an important step towards protecting the patient-physician relationship in determining the best course of treatment without barriers from payers.”
It's clear there is growing public awareness of the drugs and interest in using them. Earlier this year, a KFF Health Tracking Poll found seven in 10 people had heard of the medications, but 87% of Americans have never used a prescription drug to lose weight.
Even so, shortages of the drugs have made national news. Wegovy maker Novo Nordisk has published an online update recommending patients contact pharmacies early to fill prescriptions, and the company this year was ramping up production to keep up with demand.