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U.S. leads the world in list prices for diabetes, antiobesity meds


New drugs may lighten patient weights and wallets.

ozempic insulin injection pens © Natalia - stock.adobe.com

© Natalia - stock.adobe.com

The United States has the highest rates of obesity among the developed nations – and the highest prices for new drugs that might help.

The Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker analyzed prices for new diabetes treatments that have become one of the hottest trends in medicine due to patients using them to lose weight.

The type 2 diabetes treatments Ozempic, Rybelsus, and Mounjaro, and the antiobesity medication Wegovy, may be on the way to becoming household names in the United States for their effects on patient health. They also are more costly in the United States than in peer countries, according to the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker.

“Increased off-label use of these drugs is contributing to supply shortages for people who use these drugs for diabetes and employer health plans and insurers are scrutinizing the prescribing of the drugs,” said the study. “How these drugs are priced will influence how accessible they are to patients, how insurers cover them, and ultimately overall health spending.”

Every drug or price information was not available in every country. But where comparisons are available, results are clear: Prices are higher in the U.S.A. for 30-day supplies.

Ozempic, the semaglutide injection used for T2D treatment, has a list price of $936 in the United States and $169 in Japan. Prices were $147 in Canada, $144 in Switzerland, $103 in Germany and Netherlands, $96 in Sweden, $93 in the United Kingdom, and $87 in Australia. France had the lowest price at $83.

Rybelsus, the semaglutide tablets used for T2D, had the same U.S. price at $936. In other countries, costs ranged from $69 in Japan to $203 in the Netherlands.

There was less price data for Wegovy, the semaglutide injection to fight obesity, but the American price was $1,349, compared with $296 in Sweden and $328 in Germany.

Mounjaro, the tirzepatide injection used for T2D treatment, costs $1,023 at home. It was cheaper abroad – $319 in Japan and $444 in Netherlands.

Peterson-KFF noted patients don’t necessarily pay the list prices due to manufacturers’ rebates and coupons, and health insurance plans and employers negotiating lower prices with pharmaceutical companies.

The health spending study, “How do prices of drugs for weight loss in the U.S. compare to peer nations’ prices?” was published Aug. 17, 2023.

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