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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Fron Jackson-Webb, Deputy Editor and Senior Health Editor


Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are taking drugs like Ozempic to lose weight. But what do we actually know about them? This month, The Conversation’s experts explore their rise, impact and potential consequences.

You’ve no doubt heard of Ozempic but have you heard of Wegovy? They’re both brand names of the drug semaglutide, which is currently in short supply worldwide.

Ozempic is a lower dose of semaglutide, and is approved and used to treat diabetes in Australia. Wegovovy is approved to treat obesity but is not yet available in Australia. Shortages of both drugs are expected to last throughout 2024.

Both drugs are expensive. But Ozempic is listed on Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS), so people with diabetes can get a three-week supply for A$31.60 ($7.70 for concession card holders) rather than the full price ($133.80).

Wegovy isn’t listed on the PBS to treat obesity, meaning when it becomes available, users will need to pay the full price. But should the government subsidise it?

Wegovy’s manufacturer will need to make the case for it to be added to the PBS to an independent advisory committee. The company will need to show Wegovy is a safe, clinically effective and cost-effective treatment for obesity compared to existing alternatives.

In the meantime, we asked five experts: when supplies resume, should governments subsidise drugs like Ozempic for weight loss?

Four out of five said yes

Here are their detailed responses:

This is the last article in The Conversation’s Ozempic series. Read the other articles here.

Disclosure statements: Clare Collins is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Leadership Fellow and has received research grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), the Hunter Medical Research Institute, Diabetes Australia, Heart Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, nib foundation, Rijk Zwaan Australia, the Western Australian Department of Health, Meat and Livestock Australia, and Greater Charitable Foundation. She has consulted to SHINE Australia, Novo Nordisk (for weight management resources and an obesity advisory group), Quality Bakers, the Sax Institute, Dietitians Australia and the ABC. She was a team member conducting systematic reviews to inform the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines update, the Heart Foundation evidence reviews on meat and dietary patterns and current co-chair of the Guidelines Development Advisory Committee for Clinical Practice Guidelines for Treatment of Obesity; Emma Beckett has received funding for research or consulting from Mars Foods, Nutrition Research Australia, NHMRC, ARC, AMP Foundation, Kellogg and the University of Newcastle. She works for FOODiQ Global and is a fat woman. She is/has been a member of committees/working groups related to nutrition or food, including for the Australian Academy of Science, the NHMRC and the Nutrition Society of Australia; Jonathan Karnon does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment; Nial Wheate in the past has received funding from the ACT Cancer Council, Tenovus Scotland, Medical Research Scotland, Scottish Crucible, and the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance. He is a fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, a member of the Australasian Pharmaceutical Science Association and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Nial is the chief scientific officer of Vaihea Skincare LLC, a director of SetDose Pty Ltd (a medical device company) and a Standards Australia panel member for sunscreen agents. Nial regularly consults to industry on issues to do with medicine risk assessments, manufacturing, design and testing; Priya Sumithran has received grant funding from external organisations, including the NHMRC and MRFF. She is in the leadership group of the Obesity Collective and co-authored manuscripts with a medical writer provided by Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly.

The Conversation

ref. When supplies resume, should governments subsidise drugs like Ozempic for weight loss? We asked 5 experts –