Supply Shortages and High Costs Limit Access to Popular Diabetes Drugs

May 28, 2024

Tandra Cooper Harris and her husband, Marcus, both have diabetes and require medications to control their blood sugar.

Cooper Harris takes Ozempic or a similar drug, and Marcus Harris has been prescribed Trulicity, both popular and very expensive medications. They’re classified as GLP-1 drugs, which are also in high demand as an effective weight loss option.

According to reporting by KFF Health News, drugmaker Novo Nordisk charges about $1,000 for a month’s supply of Ozempic. Prices for a month’s supply of different GLP-1 drugs range from $936 to $1,349 before insurance coverage.

Without her medications, Cooper Harris can suffer blackouts, while Marcus Harris needs his medications to keep his legs and feet from swelling and bruising. Their doctor has prescribed GLP-1 medications similar to the name-brand drugs, but those are also in short supply and oftentimes require a lengthy approval process with their insurance company.

“It’s like, I’m having to jump through hoops to live,” Cooper Harris told KFF.

A KFF poll released in May 2024 found about 54% of adults who have taken Ozempic or similar medications found them “difficult” to afford, with low-income patients struggling the most.

Many drugmakers have programs that help patients get these medications for little or no cost. But when supply shortages become the issue – as they have with Ozempic and Trulicity – those programs don’t deliver.

Short supply combined with high costs have created a patchwork of rules and responses. For example, Medicare won’t cover the drugs if they are prescribed for obesity and state Medicaid and private insurance plans are restricting access due to soaring costs.

As reported by KFF, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, wrote a letter to Novo Nordisk raising his concerns.

The “outrageously high” price has “the potential to bankrupt Medicare, Medicaid, and our entire health care system,” he wrote.

Do you or someone in your family take Ozempic, Trulicity or another GLP-1 medication? Share your experience with Voices for Affordable Health.