Bernie Sanders Demands Cheaper Ozempic

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is calling on Ozempic and Wegovy maker Novo Nordisk to slash its prices for the diabetes and obesity treatments in the US.

In a statement, Sanders referred to a new study by a team of researchers from Yale University, King’s College Hospital in London and the nonprofit Doctors Without Borders. As we wrote yesterday, they found that producing glucagon-like peptide 1 agonists (GLP-1s) like semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy, only costs between $0.89 and $4.73 for a month's supply.

That's despite Novo charging almost $1,000 for a monthly dose in the US — hundreds or even a thousand times what it costs to manufacture.

In his statement, Sanders pointed out that the "same exact product can be purchased for just $155 a month in Canada and just $59 in Germany."

"As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), I am calling on Novo Nordisk to lower the list price of Ozempic — and the related drug Wegovy — in America to no more than what they charge for this drug in Canada," he said.

"The American people are sick and tired of paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs while the pharmaceutical industry enjoys huge profits," Sanders added, pointing out that Novo made almost $15 billion in profits last year.

While most diabetics in America tend to pay only $50 or less a month for the drug, its sky-high price without insurance — which to date has mostly refused to cover it for weight loss purposes — could still have a significant impact on its availability for people who aren't wealthy.

Instead of lowering prices, Novo is saying that most of the time, the US healthcare system takes the brunt of its overcharging, not patients.

"Congress has been focused on the complexities of the US healthcare system and the interplay of rebates, discounts, administrative fees, co-pays and deductibles — which all play a role in creating a situation where a majority of U.S. patients covered by commercial health plans pay as little as $25 a month for their prescriptions," Novo said in a statement to The Hill.

Research has already shown that taking GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy can have major health benefits, including reducing body weightimproving blood pressurewarding off kidney failure, and even treating heart failure.

"Ozempic has the potential to be a game changer in the diabetes and obesity epidemics in America," Sanders argued. "But, if we do not substantially reduce the price of this drug, millions who need it will be unable to afford it."

Fortunately, lawmakers are already making at least some progress. The Biden administration passed the Inflation Reduction Act last year, which introduced price caps on the cost of insulin. However, as some have pointed out, that could actually result in even more profits for pharmaceuticals thanks to the elimination of middlemen.

In short, Novo's massively inflated prices are leaving a major dent in the bottom line of "Medicare, the American people and our entire health care system," the Vermont senator wrote. "We cannot allow that to happen."

More on Ozempic: Ozempic Is Being Sold for Hundreds of Times What It Costs to Make