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.
A price analysis in 10 countries by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that a one-month supply of Ozempic, which is approved to treat diabetes but is often prescribed off-label for weight loss, carries a list price of $936 in the US.
A list price is the cost that a drug’s manufacturer quotes publicly when selling to wholesalers, who buy drugs from manufacturers to sell to pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics.
Although the list price does not necessarily reflect what consumers will pay, patients often have to pay more to offset the price set by manufacturers.
A month’s supply of Rybelsus, a tablet rather than an injection form of the same active ingredient as Ozempic, semaglutide, costs $936 in the US.
Among the nine other countries that KFF looked at, all paid less than $170 for the same amount of the same drug.
Ozempic is available in all 10 countries KFF tested: the US, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK, Australia and France.
It was five times more expensive in the US than it was 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 the Netherlands.
Wegovy is almost four times more expensive in the United States, at $1,349 per month, than in Germany, where it costs $328.
In the Netherlands, Wegovy is priced even lower at $296 for a month’s worth.
A month’s supply of Rybelsus, a tablet rather than an injection form of Ozempic’s active ingredient, is also $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’s not covered, they’ll have to pay more than double, $500 for a month’s supply.
Wegovy, Ozempic and Rybelus are brand names for the drug semaglutide, made by the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.
Semaglutide mimics a hormone called GLP-1 that is released in response to food intake and encourages insulin production while suppressing users’ appetite.
The high price of the drug in the US could also be due to demand.
Ozempic sales in the US are so high that they are putting pressure on Denmark to keep interest rates low due to the huge inflow of foreign currency.
The KFF analysis said: “The impact these drugs have on total health costs in a country will depend not only on the net prices of the drugs, but also on how many people use them.”