How Will the Public Sector Manage Weight Loss Drugs After Wild Year for GLP-1s?

The approval of Eli Lilly and Co.’s Zepbound (tirzepatide) in November capped off a banner year for glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists and their use in weight loss management. And the fuss over these much-hyped obesity drugs — originally approved to treat diabetes — is likely just beginning. While employer groups and commercial payers are agonizing over the potential cost of coverage, industry leaders and legislators are pushing for Medicare to cover GLP-1s as weight loss therapies. Medicaid programs, meanwhile, are also weighing their options.

GLP-1s are now “the No. 1 driver of non-specialty pharmacy trend,” Mercer’s lead pharmacy actuary Jon Lewis told AIS’s Health Plan Weekly in November. Zepbound joins fellow GLP-1s from Novo Nordisk A/S, Wegovy (semaglutide) and Saxenda (liraglutide), in the obesity market basket. (As diabetes therapies, Zepbound is marketed as Mounjaro, while Wegovy is known as Ozempic.) Despite crackdowns on off-label use of the drugs’ diabetes iterations and a seemingly endless wave of shortages, many in the industry are clamoring for increased consumer access to the drugs. The American Medical Association on Nov. 13 passed a resolution asking “health insurers to provide coverage of available FDA-approved weight-loss medications, including GLP-1 medications, to demonstrate a commitment to the health and well-being of our patients.”

© 2024 MMIT
Carina Belles

Carina Belles

Carina is a reporter at AIS, specializing in public sector data research, trend analysis and infographics. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Ohio University, joining AIS shortly after graduating in 2014.

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