A new report found that only one-third of patients stay on weight-loss drugs like Wegovy for more than a year.
The report, published by Reuters, looked at GLP-1 medications like Wegovy and Ozempic.
High costs and uncomfortable side effects may be some of the reasons patients stop taking the drugs.
A new analysis published by Reuters shows that only one-third of people who are prescribed medications like Wegovy and Ozempic for weight-loss are still taking the drugs a year later.
The data came from Prime Therapeutics, a pharmacy benefits manager, which analyzed pharmacy and medical claims data for 4,255 people who received a new prescription for a GLP-1 weight loss drug in 2021. The company looked at people taking multiple types of GLP-1 medications, including Ozempic and Wegovy — both forms of semaglutide — as well as liraglutide and Rybelsus.
In clinical trials only 6.8% of patients taking Wegovy discontinued the medication, mostly due to gastrointestinal discomfort or other issues related to the drug. Patrick Gleason, Prime’s assistant vice president for health outcomes and co-author of the analysis, told Reuters the findings pointed to a drop between staying on the medication during a clinical trial, and staying on the medication in the real world.
These results could be a problem: Studies have shown that long-term use of GLP-1 medication is needed for maximum benefit, and when people stop taking these medications, they usually regain the weight that they lost.
Drugs like Wegovy are expensive in the short-term
GLP-1 weight loss drugs affect areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food intake. People who take semaglutide medication lose on average 15% of their body weight, and the medication can also help lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. But people who take the medication will likely have to take it for life.
The medications are expensive, especially if not covered by insurance. While it can cost $25 per month with insurance, according to GoodRx, it can cost up to $1,627 per month without insurance.
Drug manufacturers believe that in addition to health benefits, taking the drug will will lower lifetime healthcare costs, Reuters reported.
But the new analysis found that in the short term — like when people just take the drug for a year or less — healthcare costs are significantly higher.
“This analysis points to the fact that there can be a lot of spending on people that are not likely to reap any long-term health benefits,” Khyrsta Baig, a health policy researcher at Vanderbilt University, said to Reuters.
Why do patients stop taking Wegovy?
The analysis didn’t look at the reasons that people stopped taking the drugs, but there could be some possible explanations.
One is cost. Even if covered by insurance, out-of-pocket costs could still make people feel like the medication isn’t worth taking, especially if they’re not seeing the weight-loss they had hoped for.
Another reason people might stop taking the medication is side effects. Unpleasant side effects — like nausea and vomiting — are common for many of the GLP-1 drugs. Some people on Ozempic for weight loss have reported pooping their pants, or joining the “shit the bed club,” Insider previously reported.
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