Six Reasons Why It’s Hard to Get Wegovy and Other Weight Loss Recipes

About 3.8 million people in the United States (four times more than two years ago) are now taking the most popular weight-loss drugs, according to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, an industry data provider. .

Some of these recipes are for diabetes. The drugs are Ozempic and Wegovy from Novo Nordisk (the same drug sold under different brand names), and Mounjaro and Zepbound from Eli Lilly (also the same drug).

The pent-up demand is even greater, because many people who want the drugs cannot find or afford them. Without insurance coverage, people have to pay out of their own pockets. If they get a coupon offering a discount from Eli Lilly, people with commercial insurance pay $550 a month for Zepbound. For those who are commercially insured, a Novo Nordisk coupon for Wegovy reduces the pharmacy bill by $500, making the cost about $1,000 a month.

And interest is expected to continue growing.

Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly have attempted to respond by increasing production, but have not been able to produce enough to come close to meeting demand.

Only a limited number of plants in the world are ready and available to manufacture injectable medications, which are more difficult to manufacture than pills. To add to the complexity, each company makes at least five doses of its drug.

“These are complicated sites, really technically demanding, capital-intensive work, populated with highly specialized machines and often made in not-so-large companies,” Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks said last month.

For Eli Lilly, which sells Zepbound for weight loss, a crucial hurdle has been manufacturing enough pens used to inject the drug.

Novo Nordisk, the maker of Wegovy, has struggled even more than Eli Lilly to produce enough of its drug, although it is playing catch-up. He said he more than doubled the supply of doses for new patients in January, estimating the drug would reach pharmacies within a couple of weeks.

This situation is unusual, said Erin Fox, an expert at the University of Utah who tracks drug shortages. Most shortages involve older drugs where there is little financial incentive to manufacture them. “Typically, if there is a very profitable drug, we don’t see a shortage,” she said.