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New KFF analysis shows diabetes medication is more expensive in the US

Doctor Osvaldo Alejandro Brusco
Posted at 3:05 PM, Aug 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-24 16:05:01-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — For those battling with diabetes—the financial burden caused by those life-saving drugs is taking a toll.

According to local Endocrinologist Osvaldo Alejandro Brusco, there are roughly 40 million people diagnosed with diabetes, and although there are new alternative medications, he said that you don't have to go with the latest thing on the market.

"You have the prior one many times by (made by) the same company because five or ten years ago they were still using it, and that was because they had the FDA indications it can also decrease weight and preserve the kidneys and the heart and help you live longer, and they are still very useful," Brusco said.

A new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation(KFF), weight loss and diabetes medication are priced much higher here in the U.S. than in any other country.

The newer medications like Wegovy, Mounjaro, and Ozempic all have the same effect as the medications used prior. The only difference Doctor Brusco said is that you only have to use these medications once a week instead of daily.

According to a CNN article, Wegovy topped the list, costing $1,349 in the US, quadruple the sales price in Germany, and 4½ times the price in the Netherlands.

The same article stated that a one-month supply of Mounjaroin in the US sells for $1,023, more than three times the price of the medication in Japan. Ozempic costs just under a grand in the US – $936 – but across the pond, people in the UK and France can buy the drug for less than $100: $93 and $83, respectively.

Dr. Brusco tells us many of the medications that are developed go through studies that take years to develop, and they are really costly.

"It probably has to do with supply and demand. Whenever you have the first drug of a class that comes into the market with certain indications from the FDA, it is seen as very attractive by doctors and patients. The demand goes up; they are the only ones in the market. They have a monopoly, the price is up," he said.

Brusco added that the most effective way to treat the disease is to treat it from the beginning and maintain it — which is probably the hardest part.

He said the first thing he makes his new patients do is to take a course where they share and work with other people who are in the same situation. It helps educate the patient on the importance of improving their lifestyle.

"If they are not educated about a disease that does not give any symptoms by large, then they lose precious time, and they have all this chronic effect on the different tissues that I mentioned like the kidneys, the nerves, the heart, etc. And, then, they develop these complications," Dr. Brusco said.

He added that with every new medication that comes to the market, there will always be high demand until the medicine becomes more generic.

Doctor Brusco emphasized the most beneficial alternative is exercising and changing your lifestyle. He said that is the most important thing someone with diabetes can do.