Highly Effective New Weight Loss Drug Will Cost 20% Less Than Ozempic
Despite the slightly cheaper price tag, Zepbound will still cost more than $1,000 per month.
The sudden rise of weight loss drugs has drastically shifted the conversation surrounding shedding pounds. While it's been shown that there are some differences between the top sellers—including how effective they are—they're still notoriously expensive. Naturally, the stiff competition atop the market is beginning to affect pricing. This includes the effective new weight loss drug Zepbound, which will cost 20 percent less than Ozempic. Read on to learn more about the latest medicine and what its release could mean for potential patients.
The FDA approved Zepbound for "chronic weight management" earlier this month.
The surge in popularity of weight loss drugs has created a bit of a boom in the number of options on the market. The latest is Zepbound, a drug known as tirzepatide that's produced by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. It was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) on Nov. 8 for chronic weight management and the treatment of diabetes.
Even though Zepbound might sound like a newcomer, tirzepatide is already prescribed to patients as Mounjaro. The main difference between the two lies in the latest approval: In its current form, Mounjaro is available for treating type 2 diabetes in adults only, while Zepbound can be prescribed to patients who are overweight and have at least one obesity-related condition, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol, per the FDA's release.
In both cases, tirzepatide's weekly injections promote weight loss by introducing a naturally occurring hormone into the body known as GLP-1, helping to reduce and cut down on someone's food intake, according to The New York Times. It's similar to competitor Novo Nordisk's popular Wegovy obesity drug and its diabetes drug Ozempic, which is sometimes prescribed off-label for weight loss.
Eli Lilly has set the market price for Zepbound 20 percent lower than its competitor.
While the top weight loss drugs may work similarly, it appears the latest addition will be different in at least one significant way. When announcing the FDA approval, Eli Lilly said it would be setting the market price for Zepbound at roughly $1,060 per month. By comparison, the directly competing weight loss drug Wegovy costs $1,349 monthly, according to Fortune.
"We priced it approximately 20 percent lower than the existing GLP-1 obesity medication on the market at the time of launch," Anat Ashkenazi, chief financial officer of Eli Lilly, recently told Fortune. "And this is the list price. It's not what the patients actually pay."
Depending on their insurance coverage, this means that some people could wind up paying as little as $25 per month for their Zepbound prescription. And if their plan doesn't include weight loss drugs, patients could still be eligible for an assistance program from the company that brings the cost down 50 percent to $550 per month, Fortune reports.
The effective drug could drive down prices of other weight loss medications on the market.
Besides providing another option for prospective patients, Zepbound's approval and lower pricing could help pave the way for easier access to weight loss drugs. Eli Lilly's leadership addressed this directly, saying it spoke with employers about the cost before its release to determine how it could work within insurance plans.
"They said that the list price was something that was a factor in their decision to expand access to people who need these medications," Mike Mason, president of Lilly Diabetes and Obesity division, told reporters on Nov. 8, according to CNN.
The drug itself could also be more effective than its more expensive competitor.
"Tirzepatide is in a completely new drug class. It's a combination peptide. This dual agonist approach seems to cause people who use Zepbound or Mounjaro injections to lose even more weight than those who use a medication that only activates one hormone pathway," Cecilia Low Wang, MD, an endocrinologist and diabetes and metabolism expert, told UCHealth, noting that Ozempic and Wegovy use a single peptide.
Still, experts remain divided on whether or not Zepbound will help bring costs down.
However, there are still plenty of factors at play that could keep Zepbound from driving down prices. Ongoing shortages of weight loss drugs have created a crunch for patients who rely on them for health reasons. This could potentially pin the market as people pay out for the sought-after medications.
"We're not expecting any price wars when demand is dramatically outstripping supply," David Risinger, senior managing director at investment bank Leerink, told Business Insider.
But the final "net" price of Zepbound will come down to talks between insurance companies and pharmaceutical intermediaries in determining what people pay, according to Business Insider. By comparison, Wegovy's net price currently sits at about half of its list price. And because of market conditions, some believe costs could wind up heading down.
"The net price is still going to be a negotiation," Craig Garthwaite, PhD, an economist at Northwestern University, told Business Insider. "I imagine it ends up at or slightly below what you'll see for Wegovy because they're in a price war now."
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.