Only 1 in 4 Still Taking Ozempic, Wegovy for Weight Loss Two Years Later

Image: Novo Nordisk

THURSDAY, July 11, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Three of four patients stop taking Ozempic or Wegovy two years after being prescribed the blockbuster drugs for weight loss, a new analysis shows.

Conducted by Prime Therapeutics and Magellan Rx Management (MRx), the review sifted through pharmacy and medical claims data for 3,364 people with insurance plans that cover the GLP-1 drugs. Patients had received new prescriptions between January and December 2021, and all were diagnosed with obesity.

Importantly, the analysis excluded patients using the drugs for type 2 diabetes, for which GLP-1 medicines were originally developed.

While the report did not delve into why patients quit, it does offer a sobering view of the real-world experiences of people taking the drugs.

“GLP-1s are unlikely to deliver therapeutic value when so many individuals stop treatment after two years, but the findings also illustrate the need for obesity care management programs to improve adherence," David Lassen, chief clinical officer at Prime/MRx, said in a news release.

Wegovy and similar GLP-1 medicines can cost more than $1,000 a month and extended use is required for meaningful health benefits.

“GLP-1s for all isn’t cost-effective,” Dr. Rekha Kumar, an obesity specialist at New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center, told Reuters. “People want to provide obesity care to their employees, but they want to do it in a way that doesn’t bankrupt them.”

For patients, it may just be too tough to stay on the medications indefinitely, the review found.

With Wegovy, just 24.1% of patients stayed on the medication over two years without a gap of 60 days or more, down from 36% who stayed on the drug for one year. With Ozempic, which has the same active ingredient as Wegovy, 22.2% of patients kept filling their prescriptions at two years, down from 47.1% who had used it for one year.

Older GLP-1 drugs fared even worse. At two years, only 7.4% of patients were still taking Novo’s Saxenda, a less effective weight-loss drug that some health plans require patients to try before newer GLPs like Novo Nordick's Wegovy or Eli Lilly’s Zepbound, Reuters reported.

In a statement, Novo Nordisk noted that Wegovy wasn’t launched until June 2021, the middle of the study period, and it wasn’t immediately covered by insurance. Meanwhile, Ozempic isn’t approved for weight loss, which can affect both insurance coverage and adherence, the Danish drugmaker told Reuters.

The company added it “does not believe these data are sufficient to draw conclusions about overall patient adherence and persistence to various GLP-1 medicines, including our treatments.”

The analysis didn’t track long-term use of Lilly’s Zepbound, which launched after the study started. The company had no comment on the findings, Reuters reported.

While the new analysis did not ask patients why they stopped the drugs, it likely owes to a mix of side effects such as nausea and vomiting, out-of-pocket costs not covered by insurance and supply shortages, analysis co-author Dr. Patrick Gleason, assistant vice president for health outcomes at Prime/MRx, told Reuters.

Some patients may decide to stop the medication once they lose the desired weight, doctors said, even though research has shown many patients who quit gain the weight back.

“No one really knows how long you should be on these medications,” said Dr. Walid Gellad, a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh who studies medication adherence.

More information has more on GLP-1 drugs.

SOURCES: Prime Therapeutics and Magellan Rx Management, analysis, July 10, 2024; Reuters

What This Means For You

Barely a quarter of those who take Ozempic or Wegovy for weight loss are still taking the medication after two years, a new analysis finds.

Related Stories

No stories found.