A drug maker will testify about why weight loss drugs cost 15 times more in the US.

Enlarge / Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen, CEO of Novo Nordisk A/S, during an interview at the company’s headquarters in Bagsvaerd, Denmark, Monday, June 12, 2023.

After some persuasion from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Novo Nordisk’s CEO will testify before lawmakers later this year about the “shockingly high cost” of diabetes and weight-loss drugs of the company (Ozempic and Wegovy) in the TO US.

CEO Lars Jørgensen will appear before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, chaired by Sanders, in early September. The agreement came after a conversation with Sanders in which the CEO reportedly “reconsidered his position” and agreed to testify voluntarily. As such, Sanders canceled a vote scheduled for June 18 on whether to call Novo Nordisk to discuss its prices in the United States, which are considerably higher than those in other countries.

The independent lawmaker has been working for months to pressure Novo Nordisk to lower its prices and appear before the committee. In April, Sanders sent Jørgensen a letter announcing a pricing investigation and included a long series of requests for information. In May, the committee’s inquiry published a report suggesting that Novo Nordisk’s current prices threaten to “break our entire healthcare system.”

Sanders has repeatedly criticized not only the high prices of Novo Nordisk’s two blockbuster drugs, but also the huge disparity between American prices and those in other countries.

Up to 15 times more in the US

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

Meanwhile, Yale researchers published a study in JAMA in March estimating that both drugs could be made for less than $5.

In May, Novo Nordisk responded with a letter to Sanders, arguing that the blame for high prices in the United States falls on the country’s complex healthcare system and middle managers who accept cuts, according to Bloomberg. Novo Nordisk said in the letter that it is prepared to address “systemic issues so that everyone who can benefit from its medicines can get them,” the outlet reported. The company also said it has spent more than $10 billion on research and development to bring Wegovy and Ozempic to market.

Still, that figure is small compared to projected revenue from the drugs. Bloomberg noted that analysts estimate Novo Nordisk will earn $27 billion from the two drugs this year alone. The May analysis by the HELP committee found that if just half of adults with obesity in the U.S. started taking a new weight-loss drug, like Wegovy, the collective cost would be about $411 billion. dollars per year. Another Congressional Budget Office report found that drug costs are so high that they will not be offset by any financial gains from improved health outcomes.

“The Committee looks forward to Mr. Jørgensen explaining why Americans pay up to 10 or 15 times more for these drugs than people in other countries,” Sanders said last week.

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