Healthcare companies that profit from treating obese and overweight patients are trying to convince investors that powerful new weight-loss drugs won’t shrink their businesses. The global market for obesity drugs could reach as much as $100 billion within a decade due to the effectiveness of medicines such as Novo Nordisk’s (NOVOb.CO) Wegovy and similar medicines that use a type of protein known as GLP-1s. These drugs work by tricking the body into thinking it’s complete and slowing the speed at which food leaves the stomach. They are popular with many patients and doctors for their effectiveness, convenience, and safety. They have helped some people lose significant weight and are linked to other health benefits, such as reduced risk for heart disease and diabetes.
But as the drugs gain popularity, the costs have sparked debate over whether they are worth their high prices. Some insurers are considering adding the drugs to their coverage offerings, but it’s unclear how widely they will be covered. Some experts say the cost will be higher than what would be paid for with better health outcomes, while others point to research that suggests such treatments may reduce overall healthcare spending.
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The Danish drugmaker’s success with Wegovy has put the company under pressure to control costs. It has limited starter doses for customers who start with low weekly injections and gradually increase them over weeks, a practice known as titration. This allows the company to limit side effects such as nausea and vomiting, which are often reported by people who take GLP-1 agonists such as Ozempic or Wegovy.
It also says it will slow down advertising for the medicine. It has already stopped some of its marketing campaigns and shifted some to digital formats, such as social media videos, to keep demand under control and avoid stimulating further growth.
GlobalData analyst Martin Holst Lange says Novo has a strong position in the market and will likely be able to overcome supply issues by 2023. He expects that insurance plans will widely cover the drug because of favorable trial results that show it can lower heart disease risks in people who are both obese and have pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. The drug is also being tested in people who don’t have those conditions and may be able to reduce their risk of heart problems.
While a few patients have developed severe side effects from taking Wegovy and its cousins, such as the life-threatening condition known as paralytic stomach syndrome, the majority of users report no significant problems. If you develop any severe symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. If you think someone is having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to speak with a crisis counselor.
If you have a chronic illness, your doctor will recommend the best treatment. This includes prescription and nonprescription medicines, over-the-counter drugs, and supplements.