Medicare prescription coverage for obesity is supported by legislation by Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, and Boehringer Ingelheim

Pharma Giants Back Bill to Expand Medicare Coverage for Obesity Drugs

Despite the considerable excitement surrounding the potential of new and potent obesity medicines, these drugs remain inaccessible to many Americans who could greatly benefit from them.

One key reason for this limitation is that existing laws prevent Medicare from covering obesity drugs. However, a group of lawmakers, supported by organizations such as Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, Boehringer Ingelheim, the American Diabetes Association, YMCA of the USA, and Weight Watchers, are pushing for change through the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act. The proposed legislation aims to strengthen the government’s efforts in combating the obesity epidemic.

As the lawmakers note, many common conditions such as heart disease and diabetes are associated with obesity. They say the bill would “work to directly prevent these comorbidities through expanded coverage of new health care specialists and chronic weight management medications for Medicare recipients.”

“There is a clear need to address obesity,” Cassidy said in a Thursday statement. “Expanding Medicare coverage to the treatments patients need enables them to improve their health and benefits us all.”

An example of the groundbreaking obesity medication is Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, the first of its kind to hit the market. This drug has shown impressive weight loss results in clinical trials and has garnered significant attention in popular culture. However, without insurance coverage, the cost of the drug can exceed $16,000 per year.

Several lawmakers from both political parties, including Sens. Bill Cassidy and Tom Carper, and Reps. Brad Wenstrup and Raul Ruiz, have sponsored the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act. The support from major pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Boehringer Ingelheim further boosts the legislation’s momentum.

Despite the potential benefits of Medicare coverage for new weight loss medications, it may not resolve the supply issue faced by pharmaceutical companies. Novo Nordisk, for instance, has temporarily restricted the US supply of low-dose Wegovy due to high demand. Eli Lilly is also struggling to keep up with demand for Mounjaro, a drug initially approved for Type 2 diabetes but potentially gaining obesity approval soon.

To meet the growing demand, both Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly are investing billions in expanding their manufacturing capacities. Novo Nordisk, in particular, has committed significant funds to construct new manufacturing facilities and expand existing sites in Denmark.

In the ongoing battle against obesity, Eli Lilly has launched a head-to-head trial between Mounjaro and Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, indicating the fierce competition in this therapeutic area.

Overall, while the proposed legislation could help more patients afford weight loss medications, pharmaceutical companies will need to address supply challenges independently to meet the growing demand for these groundbreaking treatments.

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