The cost of prescription medications in the U.S. has seen a dramatic increase since the start of the year, especially for popular drugs such as Ozempic and Mounjaro, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The price for these two diabetes medications, commonly prescribed off-label for weight loss, climbed to about $1,000 a month. The hike creates a potential financial burden for those who depend on the drugs for diabetes management.

Prices increased on 775 brand-name medications during the first part of January, according to a study performed by 46brooklyn Research, a nonprofit drug-pricing analytics group. Drugmakers raised prices by a median of 4.5%, but some drugs increased by 10% or more, according to the study.

Eli Lilly increased its GLP-1 agonist drug Mounjaro’s prices by 4.5% to about $1,070 per month, while Novo Nordisk raised the price of Ozempic by 3.5% to $970 per month, WSJ reported.

Novo Nordisk told CBS MoneyWatch in a statement that it “increases the list price of some of our medicines each year in response to changes in the health care system, market conditions and the impact of inflation.”

Impacts on Patient Access and Drug Popularity

Ozempic’s popularity skyrocketed in 2023 as it became used more commonly as a weight loss drug, which led to shortages and opened a secondary market for compounding pharmacies.

This situation, coupled with rising costs, may significantly restrict Medicaid recipients’ access to these drugs.

As of September 2023, Medicaid covers Ozempic and Mounjaro costs — but primarily for their approved use in treating Type 2 diabetes. Coverage for the drugs prescribed for weight loss is limited, with some states imposing restrictions and not covering them at all for the purpose.

“Almost 1/3 of U.S. adults had obesity in 2021, and without insurance coverage, new weight loss medications likely remain unaffordable and inaccessible for many individuals, and especially for Medicaid enrollees who are low income,” according to an article by KFF, an independent health policy research organization.

“KFF polling found about half of adults in the U.S. would be interested in taking prescription weight-loss drugs, though interest drops if the drug is not covered by insurance or after hearing patients might gain weight back after stopping use,” representatives said.

Health Concerns and Legal Challenges

While Ozempic has been in high demand, there has been a rising number of unintended health concerns connected to its use. Common symptoms of Ozempic side effects are abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, diarrhea and vomiting.

It can also cause serious health issues, including an increased risk of thyroid tumors and pancreatitis. People using Ozempic can develop gastroparesis (a paralyzed stomach) and bowel obstruction (ileus), although rare. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration received about 40 reports of intestinal obstruction and almost 100 reports of impaired gastric emptying as of September.

People are now filing Ozempic lawsuits, claiming the drug can cause severe gastroparesis, ileus and intestinal blockage and that Novo Nordisk didn’t warn users of the risks. Ozempic lawsuits are still in the early stages and there have been no settlements or jury trials.

Others are filing Mounjaro lawsuits, claiming the drug can also cause gastroparesis, ileus and intestinal blockages and that Eli Lilly didn’t adequately warn them of the risks.

The law firm Morgan & Morgan filed the first lawsuit and is now investigating several thousand claims. Attorneys are actively taking cases.

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