Novo and Lilly’s obesity drugs face barriers of high price and low coverage, survey shows

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A recent survey of 100 doctors in the United States who prescribe weight loss medications has revealed that over 75% of them consider the new GLP-1 drugs from Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk to be “paradigm shifting.” These drugs, including Lilly’s tirzepatide and Novo’s semaglutide drugs Ozempic and Wegovy, have seen skyrocketing demand in the weight loss market, leading to substantial revenue increases for both companies.

In the second quarter, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk reported year-over-year revenue increases of 28% and 34%, respectively. This surge in demand has propelled Lilly to become the most valuable biopharmaceutical company in the U.S. by market capitalization, with Novo achieving the same status in Europe.

Lilly’s tirzepatide, although currently approved in the U.S. for diabetes treatment, has shown impressive results in weight loss trials, and an FDA approval for obesity treatment could be imminent. Novo’s Wegovy, on the other hand, received FDA approval for weight management therapy in 2021 and has faced high demand, resulting in supply challenges for the company.

While the popularity of these GLP-1 drugs has been on the rise, the survey conducted by InCrowd last month revealed some concerns among physicians. The survey included 50 endocrinologists and 50 primary care physicians, and they were asked to rate tirzepatide and semaglutide in various categories.

One significant concern raised by doctors is the cost of these drugs, with only 12% to 15% of physicians giving them a “very strong performance” rating in terms of cost and coverage eligibility. About 47% of doctors rated Lilly’s pricing for tirzepatide as “very poor,” and 42% gave a similar rating for Novo’s semaglutide treatments. High prices have been a barrier for many patients, even with insurance coverage.

Doctors also expressed some safety and side effect concerns, with 40% rating both drugs as having a “neither strong nor poor performance” in this category. While the drugs were seen as very effective, with tirzepatide slightly outperforming semaglutide, side effects like nausea, constipation, vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness have been noted.

Despite these concerns, doctors acknowledged the high efficacy of both drugs, with 81% giving tirzepatide a “very strong performance” rating for efficacy, and 74% doing the same for semaglutide. Patient satisfaction was also rated highly, with 77% of doctors giving tirzepatide a “very strong” satisfaction rating, and 69% doing the same for semaglutide.

One noteworthy finding from the survey is that doctors estimate that approximately 30% of weight management patients receiving semaglutide obtain it from non-physician outlets such as spas. This indicates a growing interest in the drug outside of traditional medical settings.

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