If you’re concerned about paying for weight loss medications Ozempic or Wegovy, you may have another option. The active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy is semaglutide. This compound is a glucagon like protein (GLP-1) that was first used commercially in Wegovy’s predecessor, Ozempic, from the same pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk. Ozempic was first approved in 2017 as a medication for Type 2 Diabetes. In contrast to an underlying genetic cause for type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity. In the process of reducing blood sugar and regulating insulin for type 2 diabetics, Ozempic was found to also help patients lose weight.
Ozempic vs Wegovy
Even though Ozempic is FDA-approved for type 2 diabetes, it’s legally allowed for “off-label” treatments. So if a doctor was willing to prescribe it to you for the off-label use of weight loss treatment, it was unlikely to be covered by insurance since insurance typically only covers a medication for an on-label use. Recognizing this potential opportunity, Novo Nordisk took the semiglutide in Ozempic and submitted it to the FDA for approval in 2021 specifically for weight loss treatment under the name Wegovy. Based on approval studies, a 15.1% average weight loss is achievable after 68 weeks! Now that Wegovy is approved for the on-label use of weight loss, it can be covered by insurance… not so fast.
Whether you’re taking Ozempic for diabetes control or Wegovy for weigh loss management, both are once per week injections to the abdomen, thigh or arm. Your doctor will start at a low dose to monitor potential side effects like nausea, change in bowel habits and pancreatitis. If safety is confirmed, treatment dosage will increase monthly to a maximum of 2.4 mg per injection each week (0.25mg the first month, 0.5mg the 2nd month, 1mg the 3rd month, 1.7mg the 4th month and finally 2.4mg in the fifth month). Treatment can last for as long as you’re seeing benefits.
The Cost of Wegovy
As you can see to the left, purchasing a month supply of Wegovy, can cost anywhere from $1300 to $1400 per month without insurance. And even if you’re taking Wegovy for its on-label use of weight loss, insurance still may not cover it if you don’t suffer from one of the FDA-approved risk factors required to be a candidate – diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. If you have one of these risk factors, your chances of coverage are higher. And if you don’t qualify for insurance coverage, you can still get these medications as long as you’re willing to pay out of pocket.
A less expensive alternative
So where does this leave us?! If you don’t have diabetes, insurance won’t cover Ozempic and if you don’t have obesity or an obesity related disease like high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, insurance may cover Wegovy for weight loss. Luckily, the semaglutide compound that is the active ingredient in both Wegovy and Ozempic is available as a “generic” medication from compounding pharmacists! Because it requires a specialty pharmacy to obtain the medication, you still need to be under the care of a physician or weight management program while taking semiglutide as a once per week medication. You can search the BuildMyHealth site for doctors that have a weight management program. Just type in the keyword “semaglutide” on the home page here. You’ll find the cost of the medication and management program will ultimately be less than the out-of-pocket cost of the name brand medication alone!