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Costs, Side Effects Drive Folks to Quit New Weight-Loss Meds
  • Posted May 23, 2024

Costs, Side Effects Drive Folks to Quit New Weight-Loss Meds

Three months after starting one of the new GLP-1 weight-loss drugs, more than a quarter of patients have already quit the medications, and by a year from first use more than a third have stopped, new research shows.

Reasons for quitting Wegovy, Ozempic or similar drugs may include cost or gastrointestinal side effects, said a team led by Urvashi Patel, of the Evernorth Research Institute in St. Louis.

The drugs' price tag could be a big factor: Wegovy (semaglutide) costs about $1,300 per month, for example.

"Each 1–percentage point increase in out-of-pocket cost per a 30-day supply of GLP-1 agonist was associated with increased odds of discontinuation," Patel's group noted. They published the findings May 23 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

The St. Louis team looked at information from a major U.S. drug database on the use of GLP-1 meds by adults from early 2021 through to the end of 2023. Tirzepatide (Zepbound) was excluded from the list of GLP-1 meds because it was only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at the end of 2023.

The database of nearly 196,000 patients found that by three months after starting a GLP-1 drug, just over 26% of users had already discontinued use; by six months that had risen to just under 31%, and by a year out 36.5% had stopped taking their GLP-1 drug.

Patients who were obese but did not have type 2 diabetes were more prone to have stopped using their GLP-1 drug by 12 months compared to folks who were obese and had type 2 diabetes (50.3% vs 34.2%).

It's not clear why half of people who were obese without diabetes quit their GLP-1 within a year of starting -- it could be related to cost or side effects, or it could simply be that their weight-loss goals were achieved. Patel's team noted the study wasn't designed to ferret out the exact reasons.

The drugs' price tag did seem to be a factor: Folks living in poorer areas were more likely to stop using their GLP-1 than users in affluent areas, and as out-of-pocket costs rose so did discontinuation rates.

People who "had new gastrointestinal adverse effects at follow-up" were also more likely to quit their weight-loss medication, the team found.

According to the Mayo Clinic, side effects from using GLP-1s can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

More information:

Find out more about these new weight-loss medications at the Cleveland Clinic.

SOURCE: JAMA Network Open, May 23, 2024

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