U.S. employers covering weight-loss drugs could nearly double in 2024 – survey

(Reuters) – The number of U.S. employers who cover obesity medications, including Wegovy from Novo Nordisk that belongs to a class of GLP-1 drugs, could nearly double next year, according to a survey.The survey of 502 employers by Accolade, a company that provides healthcare programs for employers, and research firm Savanta said 43% of the employers it polled could cover GLP-1 drugs in 2024 compared to 25% that cover them now.

GLP-1s, short for glucagon-like peptide 1 agonists, are used to treat type 2 diabetes and weight loss.

“For the 43% planning to offer coverage next year, we recommend a physician-led approach that guides who should be prescribed GLP-1 medications and how to make them part of a holistic health management plan,” Accolade Associate Chief Medical Officer James Wantuck said.

Nearly all the companies that are covering GLP-1 drugs plan to keep covering them next year, according to the survey.

Employers that cover weight-loss drugs are facing a spike in their healthcare costs because of the growing popularity of Wegovy.

Sales of Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and its diabetes drug Ozempic, both of which contain the active ingredient semaglutide, have surged in the last year. Ozempic is being used “off label” for weight loss as well.

Prescriptions of Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro, another GLP-1 diabetes drug that is expected to be approved for weight loss in the United States this year, have soared too.

Benefits consultant Aon said 1 percentage point of the 8.5% increase in employer healthcare costs it predicted for next year would be driven by employee take-up of weight-loss drugs.

(Reporting by Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)