Senator Bernie Sanders has targeted the high drug prices of Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy, revealing that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) is investigating the “outrageously high” US prices of the blockbuster diabetes and obesity drugs.

In a 24 April letter addressed to Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, Sanders, who serves as the HELP Committee chair, has requested answers from the multinational pharma by 8 May. The letter said the committee is investigating future reductions of the list and net prices of both Ozempic and Wegovy, R&D spending, cost and volume of goods sold, and prices paid by government payers. Additionally, Sanders requested that Novo Nordisk explain the price discrepancy between Wegovy and Ozempic given that they are different versions of the same drug, semaglutide, sold under two brand names.

Sanders had previously put forth a proposal to cap prices on federally-funded drugs in 2023.

As per the letter, the costs of Ozempic and Wegovy—which are estimated to be profitably manufactured for less than $5 per month—are 15 times higher in the US compared to the respective costs in Canada, Europe, and Japan.

According to GlobalData’s consensus forecasts, Ozempic is expected to generate global sales of $21.7bn in 2026 while Wegovy is anticipated to generate over $17bn in global sales in 2027. GlobalData is the parent company of Pharmaceutical Technology.

Sanders highlighted that while credit must be given to the Novo’s scientists who developed “game changer” drugs with the potential to change the trajectory of diabetes and obesity, these drugs add little value to patients who are unable to afford them. Furthermore, without substantial reductions in price, Ozempic and Wegovy “have the potential to bankrupt Medicare, Medicaid, and our entire health care system,” Sanders added.

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Comparing the costs of semaglutide in the top five European markets (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) to the costs in the US up until October 2023, GlobalData’s analyst Alex Watt found that the launch costs were lower in the European markets. Additionally, while the average first price change across Europe generally trended down in the European markets, in the US markets the price of Novo’s Rybelsus and Ozempic increased by 5.33% and 6.36% respectively.

In recent months, counterfeit versions of Ozempic have been identified on the market by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), while Wegovy has further solidified its market dominance by winning a label expansion to include its use to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events.