What could we do if GLP-1 weight loss drugs were free? Would our obesity epidemic be solved for good?


Unless you have been living under a rock, you likely have heard the names Ozempic, Wegovy or Mounjaro. Or perhaps been humming the jingle. Rarely has a class of drugs (in this case, GLP-1s) achieved such widespread attention in popular culture and the media, which has people clamoring for them in every doctor’s office in the nation.

And for good reason. What we know is that the efficacy and safety profile of these medications is substantially better than any weight loss drug in the past, while our obesity epidemic has only ballooned. As organizations committed to sound science and holistic patient care, we are encouraged by the benefits of these new therapies for diabetes. The clinical evidence shows that GLP-1s are highly effective for controlling blood glucose levels among patients living with Type 2 diabetes and certain co-morbidities. GLP-1s may even improve heart health for high-risk patients.

To date, the biggest worry with these weight loss therapeutics has been the hefty price tag, ranging from $800 to $1700 per person, per month. Conservatively, these weekly injections could cost the nation more than $100 billion dollars annually. Already, state Medicaid budgets are sagging under the financial burden. In North Carolina, for example, officials dropped coverage of GLP-1s for obesity, noting that two drugs alone would cost about $1 billion over 6 years, and that’s with a nice discount.

As troubling as the cost is, what we don’t know is what should really worry us. Amidst the excitement over patients rapidly shedding up to 15% of their body mass, fundamental questions remain about who should be taking GLP-1s, at what dosages and what the long-term health and economic consequences will be for patients and society. Ultimately, the price paid to people’s long-term health may be more concerning than the price paid out-of-pocket.

With the recent release of the SELECT trial data highlighting limitations of existing published studies of GLP-1s, it is now even clearer that the public isn’t getting the full picture.

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