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Americans want insurance to cover weight loss drugs like Ozempic [POLL]

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More than half of Americans want insurers to cover new weight-loss medications like Wegovy and Ozempic in at least some circumstances, according to a new Grid/Harris Poll.

The medications, which were originally developed to treat diabetes, have proven highly effective at helping overweight and obese people lose weight. But they aren't covered by most insurance companies at a time when 70 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.

The FDA approved Ozempic, also known as semaglutide, in 2020 as a diabetes treatment. But even before approving a higher dose under the name Wegovy in 2021 for obesity, promising trial results, doctors had been prescribing Ozempic for off-label use to patients for weight loss. A surge of news and speculation that celebrities and public figures are using Ozempic off-label to lose weight has further raised the profile of the drugs, which target hormones that regulate hunger and satiety. More than 50 percent of U.S. adults have heard of Ozempic, compared to 12 percent who've heard of Wegovy, the Grid/Harris Poll found.

Wegovy is about twice as effective at helping overweight and obese people shed pounds than previously available medications, reducing body weight by roughly 15 percent, on average. Losing weight reduces the risk of developing a range of obesity-related diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Given these benefits, 53 percent of U.S. adults think insurance companies should cover weight loss medications, the Grid/Harris Poll found, with some exceptions.

Yet many insurance plans don't cover these drugs, which can cost over $1,300 a month out-of-pocket, putting them out of reach for many. Those who can afford the drugs, for both on- and off-label use, are driving shortages of the medications, threatening access for individuals who've been prescribed the medications. Despite the promise these drugs present for addressing the obesity epidemic in the U.S., affordability and access issues may end up exacerbating existing socioeconomic and racial disparities in obesity rates.

Thanks to Brett Zach for copy editing this article.

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