Novo Nordisk pushes back after price gouging accusations by Bernie Sanders

By Isabel Cameron

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Novo nordisk Obesity Diabetes Ozempic Wegovy

Pharma giant Novo Nordisk is firing back after Senator Bernie Sanders took a stand against the ‘outrageous’ prices of its wildly popular drugs, Ozempic and Wegovy.

In an interview with MSNBC, Sanders pointed out the discrepancy of charging U.S. patients over $1000 a month, while those in Germany can access the drug for just $59, while Canadians pay $155.

“The American people, in my view, no matter what your political view may be, are sick and tired of being ripped off by drug companies and paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs including Ozempic,” he said.

The news comes after a recent study published in the JAMA Network Open journal found that Ozempic can be made for less than $5 a month.

The results suggest that the drug ‘can likely be manufactured for prices far below current prices, enabling wider access,” researchers from Kings College Hospital, Yale University and Doctors Without Borders said.

American without insurance can expect to pay $965.52 per month for the GLP-1. 

Melissa Barber, public health economist at Yale and corresponding study author, described the profit margin​ for GLP-1s as ‘immense’ and said there should be a ‘conversation in policy about what is a fair price’.

Therefore, Novo Nordisk must ‘substantially’ lower the price they are charging Americans, as a wide pool of eligible patients will be priced out, Sanders said.

“You have millions of Americans who are dealing with diabetes​, dealing with obesity, not being able to afford this medicine that could really help them,” he added.

The Vermont independent also argued that if the U.S. does not get a handle on these prices, Medicare and Medicaid will pay ‘enormous sums of money’ that will fall back on taxpayers.  

However, in a statement released to MSNBC, Novo Nordisk pointed to the complex nature of navigating global healthcare systems.

"It's easy to oversimplify the science that goes into understanding disease and developing and producing new treatments, as well as the intricacies of U.S. and global healthcare systems. However, the public debate doesn't always take into account this extremely complex reality," the company said.

In addition, the Danish firm​ said they are ‘committed’ to working with policy makers to lower costs of their prescription drugs, while emphasising that a ‘majority’ of U.S. patients pay $25 with insurance.

In 2023, Novo Nordisk reached sales of $18 billion for both Ozempic and Wegovy and shares in the company have climbed 26% this year.

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