U.S. Capitol at Dusk

Can Novo Nordisk Dodge a Senate Subpoena on Pricing?

Senator Bernie Sanders doesn’t want to let this go. Novo Nordisk isn’t eager to cut its thousand-dollar list price for Ozempic. Nor is it eager to face a grilling about this in the Senate. So yesterday, Sanders announced that the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee will vote next Tuesday on a subpoena for the head of Novo Nordisk in the U.S. to appear before a hearing on July 10.

This is what we call the hot seat.

Pressure Building

Sanders announced the HELP committee’s investigation into pricing of Ozempic and Wegovy in late April. He objects to the company “charging Americans up to 10 or 15 times more for the exact same product sold in other countries.” Recently, Novo Nordisk cut the price of Ozempic in Denmark from $188 to $125 per month. Said Sanders in response:

“If Novo can substantially reduce the price of Ozempic in Denmark, it must do the same in the U.S.”

The company has responded to Sanders that the fault lies with “systemic issues” in American healthcare. That response suggested the blame should go to pharmacy benefit managers for taking a cut of discounts from the big list price of these drugs. Novo expressed a willingness to work with legislators on those systemic issues. But not any willingness to cut the high list prices.

The Result: A Hot Mess

The result of all this is a hot mess that harms people living with diabetes and obesity who need these innovative drugs. Both Novo and PBMs are enjoying a windfall on the drugs. But many employers and health plans are balking at the high list prices. Patients who don’t have coverage get stuck with paying full list prices, taking a chance on iffy compounded versions, or simply suffering without treatment.

The facts add up to a bad look for Novo Nordisk. We should be celebrating the innovation it has brought and cheering its success. Instead, we must admit the company seems a little greedy and complacent while these important medicines remain out of reach for communities that need them most.

This is a tough problem, but it’s too important for a responsible company to dodge.

Click here, here, and here for further perspective.

U.S. Capitol at Dusk, photograph by Martin Falbisoner, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


June 12, 2024

One Response to “Can Novo Nordisk Dodge a Senate Subpoena on Pricing?”

  1. June 15, 2024 at 3:35 pm, Nanette Wilson said:

    God bless, Bernie. We need advocates for fair health practices. It’s cruel to give people treatment options that work only to rip them away because insurance companies decide not to cover the medications because big pharma has no government pricing oversight. $5 product cost with bills in revenue should not become $1000+ just because they can is downright cruel.