Sanders blasts Novo Nordisk for ‘outrageous’ price of Ozempic, Wegovy

Sanders blasts Novo Nordisk for ‘outrageous’ price of Ozempic, Wegovy

Published: Mar 28, 2024

By Tristan Manalac

BioSpace

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday blasted Novo Nordisk for the “outrageously high price” of its blockbuster type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic (semaglutide) and called on the company to lower costs for the treatment as well as the weight-loss medication Wegovy, which has the same active ingredient.

Sanders’ callout of Novo Nordisk comes after a study—published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association—found that injectable semaglutide could be profitably produced for less than $5 per month. Other GLP-1 agonists (GLP1As) could also be produced at much lower monthly costs compared to their market list prices, according to the study, which noted that this trend also extended to other diabetes therapies such as insulins and SGLT2 inhibitors.

“Prices could decrease to … under $0.75 for treatment with GLP1As,” particularly as biosimilar and generic competition emerge, the study’s authors contend.

The international humanitarian medical charity Doctors Without Borders, which sponsored the JAMA study, said in a statement that at the current monthly cost of $353, GLP-1 treatments are being sold at a 39,562% mark-up over estimated generic prices.

“These new drugs are an absolute gamechanger for people living with diabetes, but are being kept out of the hands of hundreds of millions of people in low- and middle-income countries who need them,” Christa Cepuch, pharmacist coordinator at Doctor Without Borders’ Access Campaign, said in a statement.

While Sanders acknowledged that Ozempic specifically has the “potential to be a game changer in the diabetes and obesity epidemics in America,” the drug is currently being held back by its price. “A prescription drug is not safe or effective for a patient who cannot afford it,” he said.

Novo charges patients in the U.S. almost $1,000 a month for Ozempic, while the type 2 diabetes treatment costs $155 per month in Canada and $59 in Germany, Sanders pointed out, urging the Danish drugmaker to lower Ozempic’s list price to “no more than what they charge for this drug in Canada.”

“The American people are sick and tired of paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs while the pharmaceutical industry enjoys huge profits,” Sanders said.

Wednesday’s statement is part of the senator’s campaign to lower U.S. prescription drug prices. In March 2023, Sanders called on Novo and Sanofi to follow the example of Eli Lilly and lower the prices of their insulin products.

In January 2024, Sanders threatened to subpoena the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Merck to force them to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee regarding high drug prices. The pharma execs ultimately agreed to testify at the hearing, where they made the case that pharmacy benefit managers bear much of the blame for high pricing, while declining to commit to price cuts.

Source: BioSpace