Medicine with apple and tape measure (Image used under license from Shutterstock.com)
The State Health Plan Board of Trustees voted Thursday to end all coverage of popular weight-loss drugs such as Wegovy and Saxenda starting April 1, citing out-of-control costs and high prices.
This comes after the board previously announced that no new prescriptions for GLP-1 (Glucagon-like peptide-1) weight-loss drugs like Wegovy and Saxenda would be covered starting Jan. 1.
The state health plan is already facing “significant operating losses over the next four years,” according to their financial update. GLP-1 weight-loss drugs have grown to represent 10% of the state health plan’s total spending on pharmaceuticals, and the board expects costs to continue to rise without action.
Dr. Pete Robie, who was appointed to the board by State Treasurer Dale Follwell, said the state health plan “Can’t spend money that we just don’t have.”
Staff have been attempting to come up with other ways to lower the cost of the drug but have found the manufacturers of the drugs to be less than helpful.
“I don’t think they really have any interest in helping us solve our problem in the long term,” Follwell said.
Dr. Robie says the drugs are significantly cheaper in Europe.
“This medicine is being sold in Europe for about $400 a month,” Robie said. “We’re being asked to pay $1,350 a month. That’s three to four times the actual price they’re paying in Europe. What are we getting for that money?”
He says that the cost to produce the medicine does not justify such a high price tag.
“The actual cost of medicine is probably $400 a month [which is] what they’re being charged in Europe,” Robie said.
“Why are we being asked to pay the other $1,000 plus? I think it’s for stock options, profit, all those terrible things we don’t want to pay for, [and] I don’t want the state health plan to pay for.”
Robie calls the manufacturers’ unwillingness to compromise heartless.
“What do we get when we go back to the manufacturers?” he said. “A bunch of pushback [and] anger, no help at all. I think that’s heartless. Heartless if they take that approach to a medicine that could be so effective.”