Weight-loss drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelus are markedly more expensive in the US than in other wealthy countries — up to 10 times more. An analysis of prices in 10 countries by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found a one-month supply of Ozempic — which is approved to treat diabetes but is often prescribed off-label for weight loss — has a list price of $936 in the US.
A list price is the cost the manufacturer of the drug publicly prices it when selling to wholesalers, who purchase drugs from manufacturers to sell to pharmacies, hospitals and clinics.
While the list price does not necessarily reflect what consumers will pay, patients often need to pay more to offset the price the manufacturers set.
A month’s supply of Rybelsus, a tablet rather than injection form of Ozempic’s same active ingredient, semaglutide, costs $936 in the US
Among the nine other countries KFF looked at, all paid less than $170 for the same amount of the same drug.
Ozempic is available in all 10 countries KFF looked at: the US, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, UK, Australia and France.
It was five times as costly in the US as in Japan ($169), which has the second highest list price.
Meanwhile Wegovy, which is approved to treat diabetes and weight-loss, is currently only available in the US, Germany and Netherlands.
Wegovy is almost four times more expensive in America, priced at $1,349 for a month’s supply than in Germany, where it is $328.
In the Netherlands, Wegovy is priced even lower at $296 for one month’s worth.
A month’s supply of Rybelsus, a tablet rather than injection form of Ozempic’s active ingredient, also costs $936 in the US. In Japan, Rybelsus is just $69.
Even with a cost-savings program, KFF said US patients will still pay $225 for a 28-day supply of Wegovy if their health insurance plans cover the drug. If it is not covered, they will have to pay more than double, at $500 for a month’s supply.
Wegovy, Ozempic and Rybelus are all brand names of the drug semaglutide, which is manufactured by Danish pharma company Novo Nordisk.
Semaglutide imitates a hormone called GLP-1 which is released in response to food intake and encourages insulin production while simultaneously suppressing users’ appetites.
The high price of the drug in the US could also be due to demand.
Ozempic sales in the US are so high they’re pushing Denmark to keep interest rates low due to the huge influx of foreign currency.
The KFF analysis said: ‘What impact these drugs have on total health costs in a country will depend not just on the net prices for the drugs, but also on how many people use them.’