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Unfair pricing

In his letter to Jørgensen, Sanders questions why the Denmark-based drug company is charging patients in the U.S. up to 15 times more for Ozempic and Wegovy than it charges patients in Canada, Europe or Japan.

Citing April data from the Navlin International Pharmaceuticals Pricing Database, Sanders highlighted how Novo Nordisk charges Americans $969 for one month of Ozempic (used primarily to treat type 2 diabetes), compared to $155 in Canada and just $59 in Germany.

And the price gap for Wegovy (used for chronic weight management) is even more extreme — with the drug giant charging $1,349 for one month in the U.S., versus $140 in Germany and $92 in the U.K.

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

The Vermont senator also asked why Novo Nordisk is charging “Americans with obesity nearly $400 more every month than those with type 2 diabetes” for the exact same drug: semaglutide.

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Impact on insurance

Sanders, who has run several political campaigns around the notion of guaranteed, affordable health care for all Americans, expressed his concerns about how public and private health insurance plans are dealing with these expensive drugs.

“The prices for these drugs are so high in the United States that everyone — regardless of whether they use the products or not — will likely be forced to bear the burden of Novo Nordisk’s profit maximizing strategy through higher insurance premiums and taxes,” he wrote.

In 2023, researchers at Vanderbilt University and the University of Chicago estimated it would cost Medicare over $150 billion a year to cover Wegovy and other similar weight loss drugs. That’s $20 billion more than the entire prescription drug spend by Medicare in 2022.

“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,” Sanders stressed — pointing out that 35 state Medicaid programs don’t cover Wegovy at all, and dozens of states have severely restricted Ozempic coverage because of the price.

As part of the HELP Committee’s investigation, Sanders is seeking information on Novo Nordisk’s internal decision making, including how its prices are determined and how much money it makes from selling Ozempic and Wegovy to private insurers and government programs.

He concluded his letter to Jørgensen with a simple question: “Will Novo Nordisk substantially reduce both the list price and the net price of both Ozempic and Wegovy?”

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Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter for Moneywise with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets.

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