Sanders: Why Does Ozempic Cost 10 Times More in US?

Drugmaker's boss agrees to appear at Senate hearing
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2024 6:10 PM CDT
Drugmaker to Face Questions on Price of Ozempic, Wegovy
The injectable drug Ozempic is shown in July 2023 in Houston.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, the chief executive of Novo Nordisk, agreed in a phone call with Sen. Bernie Sanders to testify before a Senate committee in September. He already knows what Sanders will ask: why Ozempic and Wegovy cost "10 to 15 times" more in the US than in other countries. "This is absurd," Sanders told NBC News on Tuesday. "It is clear that Novo Nordisk is ripping off the American people." Sanders said the company asked that competitors appear at the same time, which he rejected. He wants the spotlight on the maker of the hot-selling weight-loss drugs.

"One at a time," the Vermont Independent said when asked about having Eli Lilly testify about its anti-obesity drug Zepbound and other products, per Axios. "Eli Lilly is also very big, but I think we focus on Novo Nordisk first and then we'll go to the others." The idea is to replicate the success he and the Biden administration had last year in pressuring the makers of insulin and asthma inhalers to hold monthly out-of-pocket costs to $35. Eli Lilly's CEO also promised not to raise the price of insulin at a hearing Sanders held.

The committee has cited the monthly going rate for Wegovy at about $1,300 a month in the US, $186 in Denmark, $137 in Germany, and $92 in the UK—a difference made possible by the US patent system. Novo Nordisk said 80% of American patients with insurance are paying $25 or less per prescription of Ozempic or Wegovy. The company said it has invested billions of dollars in research and production capacity. Congress can't do much other than apply pressure, and a Johns Hopkins professor said shaming drugmakers can only do so much. "Changing the laws is absolutely the right answer," Gerard Anderson said. (More Ozempic stories.)

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