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The rise in popularity of GLP-1 weight-loss drugs, such as Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro, has had a wide-reaching impact across the healthcare industry and beyond.
The launch of multiple glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) drugs for weight loss—such as Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro—is expected to cause a major shakeup in the stock market, as millions of Americans are set to shed hundreds of millions of pounds over the next decade while reshuffling trillions of dollars in the process, according to expert analysis.1
Not only have these treatments helped patients shed a significant amount of pounds, but they have also shown efficacy treating other conditions as well. A recent drug trial by Novo Nordisk found that semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy, could help people with kidney failure as well. As shares of Novo Nordisk and Mounjaro developer Eli Lilly increase, dialysis providers, such as DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care, have seen their shares plunge double digits.1
A randomized, placebo-controlled study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in September found that after one year of weekly semaglutide (2.4 mg) injections, patients experienced significant reductions in symptoms and physical limitations, improved exercise functions, and weight loss, with an improved overall quality of life. Additionally, individuals on semaglutide lost more than five times the percentage of weight that was lost by participants in the placebo arm.2,3
“Our findings of substantial reductions in symptoms and physical limitations and improvements in exercise function that parallel a greater degree of weight loss with semaglutide than with placebo may offer insights into the long-standing controversy surrounding weight (and weight loss) in persons with HF,” the authors of the study wrote.
In the past 20 years, obesity rates in the United States have skyrocketed, with 41.9% of US adults struggling with the condition. Approximately 20% of US children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years also have obesity, tripling since the 1970s, according to 2017–2020 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Last year, at least 25% more of the population struggled with obesity in each state.4
Because of the sudden popularity of these weight loss drugs, manufacturers have seen a major boost in prominence and on the stock market. Novo Nordisk, maker of weight loss drug Wegovy, as well as the type 2 diabetes treatment Ozempic, is now Europe's largest company, worth $433 billion. Eli Lilly is now the ninth largest company in the S&P 500, with a market value of approximately $568 billion.1
In 2023, there has been a major push to provide patients with wider coverage on obesity treatments. A new white paper published by Manatt Health, the Obesity Action Coalition, and the Obesity Society has urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to change its stance on Medicare Part D coverage of anti-obesity medications (AOMs). Currently, CMS doesn’t permit the use of outpatient use of AOMs under Medicare, citing a federal law that excludes them for coverage when used for anorexia, weight loss, or weight gain—referred to as the Statutory Exclusion.5,6
According to the paper, CMS has the administrative authority to adopt AOMs under an alternative interpretation of the statutory exclusion, which would allow the medications to be covered over Medicare Part D. It also explains that in the past, the center has amended its interpretation of the Statutory Exclusion to permit coverage of Serostim, a drug used to treat wasting/cachexia resulting from AIDS by increasing the patient’s weight but has, to date, declined to interpret the Statutory Exclusion to permit coverage of AOMs under analogous circumstances.5,6
1. The stock market is getting Ozempic'ed. Business Insider. October 14, 2023. Accessed November 2, 2023. https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/stock-market-outlook-ozempic-wegovy-glp1-weight-loss-drugs-investing-2023-10#:~:text=The%20quick%20rise%20of%20GLP,sectors%20across%20equities%20and%20economy
2. Semaglutide Found Effective for Weight Loss in Patients With Heart Failure, Obesity. Pharmacy Times. August 31, 2023. Accessed November 2, 2023. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/semaglutide-found-effective-for-weight-loss-in-patients-with-heart-failure-obesity
3. Kosiborod MN, Abildstrøm SZ, Borlaug BA, et al. Semaglutide in Patients with Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction and Obesity. N Engl J Med;2023; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2306963.
4. State of Obesity 2023: Better Policies for a Healthier America. Trust for America’s Health. September 21, 2023. Accessed November 2, 2023. https://www.tfah.org/report-details/state-of-obesity-2023/#:~:text=Nationally%2C%2041.9%20percent%20of%20adults,in%20urban%20and%20suburban%20areas.
5. New Paper Urges CMS to Reconsider Anti-Obesity Medications as Treatment for Chronic Disease. Pharmacy Times. September 27, 2023. Accessed November 2, 2023. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/new-paper-urges-cms-to-reconsider-anti-obesity-medications-as-treatment-for-chronic-disease
6. New white paper demonstrates legal and policy rationale for Medicare Part D coverage of anti-obesity medications, including alignment with clinical guidelines, existing precedents, and Biden Administration priorities. News release. Rational 360. September 25, 2023. Accessed November 2, 2023.