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The new weight loss drug Zepbound is priced significantly lower than similar GLP-1 medications like Wegovy. Igor Alecsander/Getty Images
  • A new GLP-1 drug for weight loss, Zepbound, recently became available in pharmacies.
  • Reports indicate that the drug is hundreds of dollars cheaper than its rival, Wegovy.
  • Experts say this could indicate more competition and lower prices in the future.
  • However, lower prices may not last since the drug is expensive to manufacture.
  • Zepbound also appears to be more effective for weight loss than Wegovy.

On November 8, 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted approval to Zepbound (tirzepatide) for the treatment of overweight and obesity in people who also have conditions like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol.

However, reporting by Quartz indicates that this newest entrant to the field of GLP-1 drugs, which became available in pharmacies on December 5 of this year, may have a distinct advantage over its competitor, Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy (semaglutide): its lower cost.

The news outlet states that Zepbound bears an out-of-pocket price tag of $1,060 compared to $1,350 for Wegovy.

A press release from Eli Lilly further notes that people with commercial insurance with coverage for Zepbound may be able to obtain the drug for as little as $25 for a 1-month or 3-month prescription.

Additionally, those who have insurance but no coverage for Zepbound may still be able to pay as low as $550 per month, according to the drug’s manufacturer.

Alex Foxman, M.D., F.A.C.P., Medical Director at Achieve Health and Weight Loss, said the offering of a lower price point on Zepbound when compared to other GLP-1 drugs “could potentially signal a new trend.”

He noted that the out-of-pocket price for Wegovy ranges between approximately $1300-$1700, with Zepbound ranging approximately between $1056-$1200.

“This price difference may encourage competition in the market, potentially leading to more affordable options for these types of drugs in the future,” he said.

Foxman said, however, that it’s important to note that the exact effects of Zepbound’s lower price will also depend on various other factors, including consumer demand, insurance coverage, and any other similar drugs that come on the market.

Jonathan Kaplan, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon and owner of Pacific Heights Plastic Surgery, added that it’s “certainly the hope that more competition will drive down price.” However, he believes there are reasons to think it either won’t come down or won’t stay that way for long.

“There are already coupons and vouchers that Novo Nordisk (Ozempic/Wegovy) and Eli Lilly (Mounjaro/Zepbound) provide to reduce the cost of the medications but they’re time-limited and then insurance won’t agree to pay to cover the costs,” he noted.

He also pointed out the fact that the medications are difficult and expensive to make.

Furthermore, making them more affordable in the short term could lead to even greater shortages, he said.

“And with demand, both companies are currently investing billions to expand production so lowering the cost of the medication long term will make that capital investment harder to substantiate,” he added.

However, lower prices aside, Zepbound may potentially have other advantages over Wegovy.

Thomas So, Pharm.D., clinical pharmacist at FDB (First Databank, Inc.), said that Zepbound contains the same active ingredient as Mounjaro, a medication that is used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

“Like semaglutide (the ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy), tirzepatide mimics the hormone GLP-1 that signals to the brain when a person is full,” So explained.

However, in addition to mimicking the action of GLP-1, it also mimics another hormone, GIP, which aids the body in breaking down sugar and fat. According to So, this can increase the effectiveness of Zepbound for weight loss.

“In a clinical trial, patients using tirzepatide had achieved weight loss of over 20% body weight with the highest dose studied,” he noted.

Additionally, according to Foxman, in a recent study in which people combined Zepbound with diet and exercise, participants lost up to 25% of their body weight.

“This is more than the 15% body weight loss observed with Wegovy in a 2021 study,” said Foxman.

“However, it’s crucial to consider that Zepbound, like other drugs in its class, can have side effects including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal discomfort, and others,” he added.

“To achieve maximum results, patients who take these types of medications should be enrolled in an experienced medical weight loss program.”

Zepbound, a new GLP-1 drug for the treatment of overweight and obesity, has entered the market.

One outstanding feature of the drug is that it is being offered at a price hundreds of dollars less than its competitor, Wegovy.

Experts say this could signal a trend of more competition and lower prices. However, the lower prices may not last in the long term since these drugs are difficult and expensive to make.

Still, the approval of Zepbound is good news. Studies show that it is a promising drug that appears to outperform its competitor Wegovy when it comes to weight loss.