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Why is Ozempic so expensive compared to Europe? Novo Nordisk CEO to answer to Senate

Soaring Ozempic costs spark outrage and Senator Sanders demands answers

Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical giant, found itself in hot water after its weight-loss drug Ozempic became a blockbuster medication. While the drug helped countless individuals shed pounds and improve their health, its astronomical price tag in the U.S. compared to other countries sparked outrage. Now, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen is set to face a U.S. Senate hearing in September to defend the company's controversial pricing strategy.

Ozempic, along with its close cousin Wegovy, enjoyed explosive sales in 2023. These medications, used to treat type 2 diabetes and promote weight loss, quickly became top sellers, propelling Novo Nordisk to the top of the European market. However, for many American consumers, the dream of a slimmer physique came at a hefty price.

An Ozempic price disparity that raises eyebrows

A closer look at the Ozempic price disparity reveals a staggering difference. In the U.S., a Wegovy prescription can cost a staggering $1,349 per month. This exorbitant cost stands in stark contrast to prices in other developed nations. In Germany, a Wegovy prescription sits at a mere $140, and in the U.K., patients pay just $92. This price discrepancy has ignited a firestorm of criticism, with Senator Bernie Sanders leading the charge against Novo Nordisk.

Initially, Novo Nordisk President Doug Langa faced a Senate committee vote that could have forced him to testify. However, in a recent development, CEO Jørgensen stepped forward, volunteering to defend the company's pricing structure before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions in September.

Senator Sanders, a vocal advocate for affordable healthcare, has repeatedly condemned the pharmaceutical industry's practices. He accused Novo Nordisk of "ripping off the American people" and highlighted the outrageous price gouging compared to other countries.

Sanders declared that big pharma's profiteering at the expense of the American people's health care affordability is becoming old. He emphasized the need for Novo Nordisk to stop these practices and reiterated his desire for fair pricing for all Americans.

A blue toothbrush in a shopping cart

Novo Nordisk responds: Shifting blame to the system

In response, Novo Nordisk claims they are working to cooperate with the committee. A company representative stated that Jørgensen's volunteered testimony reflects a commitment to finding a solution. Their goal, they claim, is to ensure "access and affordability for all patients within the complex U.S. healthcare system."

However, Senator Sanders' statement suggests Novo Nordisk might be the latest target in a long-standing battle. He also criticized Merck, another pharmaceutical giant involved in diabetes medications, hinting at a broader issue within the industry. Previously, in May, Novo Nordisk attempted to deflect blame by attributing the price disparity to the U.S. healthcare system with its network of middlemen. They argued that these intermediaries take a significant chunk of the profits, leaving the company with only 60% of the list price for Wegovy and Ozempic.

The upcoming Senate hearing promises to shed light on the complex issue of drug pricing in the U.S. While Novo Nordisk attempts to justify its practices, Senator Sanders and countless Americans remain resolute in their demands for affordable healthcare solutions.

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