Chaos in the Kitchen

Obesity Care Bedlam But No Worries

Calm in the midst of a storm is always odd. Has it passed? Or is there more to come? Bedlam pretty much defines the market for obesity care right now. Both Novo Nordisk and Lilly announced robust business results on the strength of impressive new options for treating obesity. Novo released stunning topline results for a study that shows for the first time ever that aggressive treatment of obesity can prevent cardiovascular deaths, heart attacks, and strokes. At the same time, the company told the world it will not be able to keep up with demand for the drug that does this until next year at best. But in talking to business reporters yesterday, the head of the company said this is not a concern:

“Chief Executive Officer Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen shrugged off the Wegovy supply worries.

“‘I’m not concerned,’ he said in an interview with Bloomberg Television, adding that there’s ‘a lot of hope’ because obesity might finally be treatable and the company is ramping up manufacturing as quickly as it can.”

Yes, this is odd.

Bedlam in Many Dimensions

Disruption of the status quo in obesity care is, of course, a good thing. It was great news this week to hear that obesity treatment with semaglutide cuts cardiovascular deaths. No wonder Jørgensen wanted to talk about hope. James Januzzi, a Harvard professor of medicine, had no involvement with this study, but he is quite enthusiastic, telling Vox:

“People are very excited. Although we have been able to slow the tide of heart disease in the last 20 years, a lot of those gains have started to be lost because of the rise of obesity and diabetes.”

From Johns Hopkins, Michael Blaha expresses similar thoughts to Nature:

“This is probably the most important study in my field in the last ten years. It gets to that cardiometabolic risk that’s been difficult to treat in practice.”

But bedlam in obesity care occurs because of human suffering when people cannot get this medicine. Some are finding themselves cut off from coverage as Novo Nordisk fights with insurers and employers to cover it and benefit plans retaliate by notifying patients they are going to stop paying for their costly medicine. No matter that the drug is already improving their health.

Despite the squabbles over cost, Novo Nordisk can’t keep up with demand. It’s quite a bewildering mess.

Maybe Calm Is Good

Perhaps in the midst of all this turmoil, calm is the best demeanor to project. That’s not the same thing as indifference or a lack of concern. In any event, things will become much clearer as competition increases. Lilly will be entering this market soon and will keep Novo Nordisk on its toes. Other competitors are also coming to raise the bar.

From all this bedlam, we expect that greater order will emerge, and obesity care will improve.

For further insight on all of this, we recommend this reporting from Vox and Nature.

Chaos in the Kitchen, painting by Vincenzo Abbati / WikiArt

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August 11, 2023

One Response to “Obesity Care Bedlam But No Worries”

  1. August 11, 2023 at 2:02 pm, Beverly Lynn said:

    Again, Big Insurance will cut off our noses to spite our faces by not paying for a drug which will save them immense amount of money later. But then again, Big Pharma will get greedy (more) and decline to lower prices to make saving lives easier. And who loses? Us. The consumers.