Diabetes Drugs Like Ozempic Could Be Produced at Fraction of Current Costs: Study

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Popular diabetes drugs that are used for weight loss as well are overpriced by up to 97 percent, according to research.

People struggling to pay for diabetes or obesity medications may soon get some relief.

A new study suggests that blockbuster drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, which have skyrocketed in popularity but come with sky-high price tags, could potentially be manufactured for a fraction of their current costs.

This discovery may open the door to wider access and improved health outcomes for millions worldwide.

Insulin Overpriced by Up to 97 Percent Globally

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, the study employed modeling data to estimate the manufacturing costs of insulins, sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitors (SGLT2 inhibitors), and glucagon-like peptide 1 agonists, also known as GLP-1 agonists.

To establish a cost-based price, the research team ran models incorporating the costs of pharmaceutical ingredients, operating expenses, and a profit margin. They then compared these cost-based pricing estimates to the current market prices for insulin drugs across 13 countries worldwide, including France, Latvia, the UK, the U.S., Bangladesh, Brazil, China, El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Morocco, South Africa, and Ukraine.

Insulin costs varied depending on how patients administered the medication.

For a basal-bolus regimen, insulin in a reusable pen device could cost as low as $96 per year, while insulin analogues could cost around $111 per year. Twice-daily injections of mixed human insulin were estimated at $61 per year, with human insulin costing $50 and insulin analogues costing $72 annually.

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The estimated cost-based prices for insulin analogues were between 25 and 97 percent lower than the lowest current market price, according to the research team.

The cost-based pricing for SGLT2 inhibitors, including Brezaccy, Invokana, Farxiga, Jardiance, and Steglatro, ranged from $1.30 to $3.45 per month. The estimated cost-based prices for Farxiga (dapagliflozin) and Jardiance (empagliflozin) were lower than the current lowest market prices, while the cost-based price for Invokana (canagliflozin) overlapped with the lowest current market price.

The research team wrote that the cost-based prices for GLP-1 agonists were “substantially below the lowest current market prices.” Producing popular GLP-1 agonist drugs, such as Ozempic, Wegovy, or Zepbound, cost between $0.75 and $72.49 per month. Currently, Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Ozempic, offers the lowest dose for $935.77.

The low competition in the GLP-1 agonist field, where patents are highly coveted, is likely a major driving force behind the high prices, the research team wrote.

Potential for Affordable Insulin Worldwide

The cost-based price analysis indicates that insulin can be made more readily available to the millions of people living with diabetes worldwide.

Only half of the 63 million people living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have access to insulin, with price being one of the main barriers to access, according to the study.

The cost of GLP-1 agonists could become more accessible “once a robust global and biosimilar market emerges,” the research team wrote.

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