About 3.8 million people in the United States — four times as many as two years ago — are now taking the most popular weight-loss medications, according to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, an industry data provider.
Some of these recipes are for diabetes. The drugs are Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy (the same drug sold under different brand names) and Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro and Zepbound (also the same drug).
The backlog is even higher because many people who need the medication can neither find nor afford it. Without insurance coverage, people have to pay out of their own pockets. If they receive a discount coupon from Eli Lilly, commercial policyholders will pay $550 per month for Zepbound. For those with commercial insurance, a Novo Nordisk voucher for Wegovy reduces the pharmacy bill by $500, bringing the cost to about $1,000 per month.
And interest is expected to continue to grow.
2. The offer is limited.
Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly have tried to respond by increasing production, but have been unable to produce enough to even come close to meeting demand.
Only a limited number of facilities in the world are ready and available to produce injectable drugs, which are more difficult to produce than pills. To make matters worse, each company produces at least five dosage strengths of their drug.
“These are complicated sites, really technical work, very capital intensive, populated with machines that are highly specialized and often made by not-so-big companies,” Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks said last month.
For Eli Lilly, which sells Zepbound for weight loss, a key bottleneck is producing enough pens used to inject the drug.
Novo Nordisk, the maker of Wegovy, has had even more trouble than Eli Lilly making enough of its drug, even as it tries to catch up. It said it more than doubled the supply of doses for new patients in January, estimating that the drug…