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NEWS: Chairman Sanders Launches Investigation into Outrageously High Price of Ozempic and Wegovy in the United States

WASHINGTON, April 24 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today sent a letter to the CEO of Novo Nordisk, launching an investigation into the outrageously high prices his pharmaceutical company is charging for Ozempic and Wegovy in the United States.

In his letter, Chairman Sanders wrote, “The scientists at Novo Nordisk deserve great credit for developing these drugs that have the potential to be a game changer for millions of Americans struggling with type 2 diabetes and obesity. As important as these drugs are, they will not do any good for the millions of patients who cannot afford them. Further, if the prices for these products are not substantially reduced, they have the potential to bankrupt Medicare, Medicaid and our entire health care system. The United States Congress and the federal government cannot allow that to happen.”

Novo Nordisk currently charges Americans with type 2 diabetes $969 a month for Ozempic, while this same exact drug can be purchased for just $155 in Canada and just $59 in Germany. Novo Nordisk also charges Americans with obesity $1,349 a month for Wegovy, while this same exact product can be purchased for just $140 in Germany and $92 in the United Kingdom.

Novo Nordisk’s prices are especially outrageous given a recent report from researchers at Yale University that found both of these drugs can be profitably manufactured for less than $5 a month.

“In my view, the American people should not have to pay up to $1,349 a month for prescription drugs that cost less than $5 to manufacture and can be purchased at a fraction of this price in other developed countries,” said Chairman Sanders.

“The result of these astronomically high prices is that Ozempic and Wegovy are out of reach for millions of Americans who need them,” Sanders continued. “Unfortunately, Novo Nordisk’s pricing has turned drugs that could improve people’s lives into luxury goods, all while Novo Nordisk made over $12 billion in profits last year — up 76 percent from 2021. That is unacceptable.”

The prices for these drugs are so high in the United States that everyone — regardless of whether they use the products — will likely be forced to bear the burden of Novo Nordisk’s profit maximizing strategy through higher insurance premiums and taxes.

One major commercial health insurance company told Chairman Sanders that the company would have to double premiums for all of its policy holders if it covered Wegovy and Ozempic for all eligible patients.

Public health insurance plans are seeing similar problems. The North Carolina State Health Plan stopped covering Wegovy for weight loss after estimating that continuing coverage for the drug at its current price would require them to double the premiums for all of their policy holders, regardless of whether they were taking the medication.

The unjustifiably high prices of Ozempic and Wegovy are already straining the budgets of Medicare and Medicaid and severely limiting access for patients who need these drugs.

Last year, researchers at Vanderbilt University and the University of Chicago estimated that it would cost Medicare over $150 billion a year to cover Wegovy and other similar weight loss drugs. To put this in perspective, the cost of all retail prescription drugs covered by Medicare in 2022 was less than $130 billion. Further, more than 35 state Medicaid programs do not cover Wegovy at all, and dozens of states have severely restricted Ozempic coverage because of the unjustifiably high prices of these drugs.

In his letter, Chairman Sanders requested that the CEO of Novo Nordisk answer a simple question: “Will Novo Nordisk substantially reduce both the list price and the net price of both Ozempic and Wegovy?” 

The letter from Chairman Sanders also requests information on the company’s internal decision-making, including information on how much the company makes from selling the product to commercial insurers and government programs. The letter also requests that the company provide information on how prices are determined and the company’s expenditures on research and development for these drugs.

To read the letter to Novo Nordisk, click here.