About two-thirds of patients who take popular weight loss drugs end their regimen within a year, according to a Prime Therapeutics study released July 11.
Prime, a pharmacy benefit manager owned by 19 Blue Cross Blue Shield companies, analyzed pharmacy and medical claims of 4,255 patients who took GLP-1 receptor agonists — such as Ozempic and Wegovy — for weight loss in 2021. The study found only 32 percent of patients continued their weight loss treatment after one year.
"The majority of patients aren't getting the value of the product and there's waste, especially with an expensive therapy," Patrick Gleason, PharmD, Prime's assistant vice president for health outcomes and a co-author of the analysis, told Reuters. "I was a little bit surprised by the persistency rate."
Ozempic is a Type 2 diabetes drug that is not approved to treat weight loss but is often prescribed off-label for chronic weight management. The injectable drug, and other GLP-1 therapies, some of which are approved for weight loss, have been in high demand for months for their weight loss results.
In Prime's research, all of the patients had insurance coverage for their GLP-1 drugs. The PBM did not ask patients why they stopped treatment, but the researchers said reasons could be severe nausea and vomiting side effects or an inability to pay copays or deductibles for the therapies that cost about $1,000 for a month's supply without insurance.
"Health plans should consider programs to help adherence to avoid medication waste and comprehensive therapy plans — which include diet and exercise — to help people on their weight loss journey," David Lassen, PharmD, chief clinical officer at Prime, said in a statement.