Looking for Traction

Why Ozempic Gets More Traction Than Wegovy

Insights surface when we take the time to listen to people living with obesity. Yesterday, Ro and the Obesity Action Coalition released results from a study of the thoughts and feelings people are having about obesity, weight loss, and the new GLP-1 medicines. There’s a lot to think about in these results – about motivations for seeking weight loss and obesity care, expectations, and stigma. But one thing stands out to us. The awareness of these new meds is quite high, and Ozempic is getting way more traction than Wegovy in the context of obesity.

This might seem odd. Ozempic is the brand of semaglutide that Novo Nordisk packages, labels, and sells for diabetes – not for obesity. Wegovy is their brand of the same drug labeled and sold for obesity. So why is Ozempic, not Wegovy, getting all the traction?

Ozempic Five to One

Overall, a bit more than two-thirds (68%) of people with obesity had heard of at least one of these GLP-1 medicines. People were five times more likely to have heard of Ozempic than Wegovy (48% vs 10%). Mostly, they say they hear about it on TV (56% of respondents), with healthcare professionals coming in second (24%). Though social media gets a lot of credit for generating the buzz, it comes in third (18%).

Money and Familiarity

After months of headlines about these medicines, these results are not really surprising. Ozempic is the brand that gets more mentions. It’s been in advertising on TV and elsewhere for almost five years – long before the Wegovy brand even launched. So the brand was already familiar.

Also important is the money factor. This works in two ways. First the list price of semaglutide under the brand name of Ozempic is quite a bit lower than it is for the same drug branded as Wegovy. True, the highest dose of Ozempic is 2.0 mg weekly, while the standard dose for Wegovy is 2.4 mg weekly. But the price difference is much more than the difference in dosing.

The other part of the money factor is health insurance. Most often it will cover diabetes meds, but coverage for obesity medicines is quite unpredictable at best. Plus to persuade pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to put a new drug on their formularies, it helps to have a higher price and offer bigger rebates to pad the PBM profit margins. Confusing? Yes, but this reflects the sorry state of drug pricing in the U.S.

Drawing an Artificial Line That Doesn’t Work

There’s much more to read in the results from this new research on the views of people living with obesity. We encourage you to read all of it.

But one thing is clear to us. The artificial lines we try to draw between obesity and other health conditions like diabetes simply don’t work. Most of the people who want help with losing weight – two thirds – want to improve their health. Yes, appearance concerns are real, but they are secondary to health.

So setting up a separate brand for an obesity indication really doesn’t make much sense. Given such poor brand awareness in the midst of a firestorm of popular interest, it certainly seems like a weak marketing tactic.

Click here and here for more on the new survey research. For further perspective on separate branding for obesity, click here.

Looking for Traction, photograph by Ted Kyle / ConscienHealth

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April 27, 2023

3 Responses to “Why Ozempic Gets More Traction Than Wegovy”

  1. April 27, 2023 at 8:51 am, Rohan Dhurandhar said:

    Insightful thoughts, Ted!

    Since we are talking brand recognition, I wonder if it could also be the name of the drug? To me, Ozempic is easier to pronounce, recall, and spell. With its harder consonants, that’s not surprising.

  2. April 27, 2023 at 9:23 am, Claire Elizabeth Reach said:

    Hi, must wondering where this stat comes from?
    ‘Most of the people who want help with losing weight – two thirds – want to improve their health. Yes, appearance concerns are real, but they are secondary to health.’

    • April 27, 2023 at 3:09 pm, Ted said:

      You can find the numbers here.