RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The use of new weight loss drugs has skyrocketed in North Carolina, leading to “unsustainable” cost increases for the State Health Plan.
The number of state employees using weight loss drugs like Wegovy and Saxenda, for overweight patients use outside of diabetic needs, spiked by more than 730 percent in just two years, according to the State Health Plan.
With more than 23,000 state employees currently covered using the weight loss drugs, it’s expected to cost the State Health Plan more than $170 million in 2024 and upwards of a billion dollars over the next six years.
The State Health Plan staff estimates the cost of keeping up the weight loss drug coverage would essentially double individual state health plan premiums for everyone, not just weight loss medication users.
NC Treasurer Dale Folwell wants the State Health Plan to nix coverage for weight loss drugs like Wegovy and Saxenda, until manufacturer Novo Nordisk, reduces prices in the US.
“It defies logic that Novo Nordisk can sell the exact same product in the Netherlands for $296 per month and in the United States for more than $800 per month,” Folwell said. “They should be investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for unfair and deceptive business practices.”
Weight loss expert and physician Dr. Wickham Simonds calls the drugs a game changer, helping hundreds of his patients control their weight.
“The results are dramatic. I’ve never in 19 years of practice seen anything like this,” Simonds said.
Simonds said the demand for the medications has increased exponentially.
“I’m sympathetic to my patients who need the medicine. I’m also sympathetic to the state treasurer or insurance company administrators who have to foot the cost of the medicine,” Simonds said.
If the state approves ending coverage for the weight loss drugs, patients under the state’s health plan will have to pay out of pocket.
“Essentially the price of a very nice mortgage. I mean, it’s about $1,500 a month,” Simonds said. “Patients are going to be really upset about it because a lot of them have been very successful with it and so they’re going to have to make that choice and a lot of them don’t have the financial means to do it.”
The State Health Plan board is discussing the change Thursday.
People can get more information on the use of weight loss drugs in NC and the proposed coverage change online here.