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HomeHealth and LifestyleHealthy Returns: One in eight adults have taken Ozempic or other GLP-1s,...

Healthy Returns: One in eight adults have taken Ozempic or other GLP-1s, survey says


Rebekah Carl poses with her prescription of Wegovy in New Columbia, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 13, 2023. 

Hannah Beier | Reuters

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Good afternoon! The use of a buzzy class of weight loss and diabetes medications is more common than ever. 

About 1 in 8 adults in the U.S. has used a GLP-1 drug at some point in their life, according to a survey from health policy research organization KFF released last week. Roughly half of those Americans, or around 6% of U.S. adults, are currently using one of the treatments.

That includes Novo Nordisk‘s weight loss injection Wegovy and diabetes drug Ozempic, along with Eli Lilly‘s weight loss treatment Zepbound and diabetes counterpart Mounjaro.

The survey shows a wide swath of Americans are taking the drugs despite intermittent shortages caused by unrelenting demand. The treatments have skyrocketed in popularity over the last year despite their high costs and limited insurance coverage.

Let’s dive into some of the data.

Most adults, or more than 60%, who have used a GLP-1 reported taking them in part to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. That includes 39% who took a GLP-1 solely to treat a chronic condition, and 23% who took one to both treat a chronic condition and lose weight.

Meanwhile, 38% of adults who have taken a GLP-1 reported using them specifically to lose weight.

Notably, GLP-1 usage differed depending on race and ethnicity.

  • Around 18% of Black adults have taken one of the drugs
  • About 14% of Hispanic adults have used them
  • Roughly 10% of white adults have taken one of the drugs

Black and Hispanic adults in the U.S. have a higher rate of obesity than white adults, according to KFF’s analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. 

There were also differences by age group, the survey said.

Nearly 20% of adults ages 50 to 64 said they have taken a GLP-1 before, which is higher than the shares reported by other age groups.

However, younger adults were more likely than those 65 and above to report taking a GLP-1 specifically for weight loss. KFF said that may reflect the fact that the federal Medicare program does not cover prescription weight loss drugs.

Medicare can only cover treatments for weight loss if they are approved in the U.S. for an additional health benefit, such as treating diabetes and reducing the risk of heart disease.

But the majority of all adults, regardless of whether they have taken a GLP-1, said they think Medicare should cover the cost of the drugs when prescribed for weight loss and for people who are overweight, according to the KFF survey.

Still, more than half of adults with health insurance who have taken GLP-1s said their plans covered part of the cost of these drugs. Meanwhile, 24% said their insurance covered the full cost of the drug, and 19% said they paid for the entire cost themselves. 

The data points in this survey could change in the future as GLP-1s win approval for new purposes, such as sleep apnea and fatty liver disease, which would put more pressure on health plans to cover them. Stay tuned for our coverage on the use of these drugs. 

Feel free to send any tips, suggestions, story ideas and data to Annika at annikakim.constantino@nbcuni.com.

Latest in health-care technology

Google DeepMind announces new AI model that can predict structure of molecules

Pavlo Gonchar | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Google on Wednesday announced a new artificial intelligence model called AlphaFold 3, which it said can illustrate the complex interactions and structures of “all of life’s molecules.” The company hopes the model will transform drug discovery and biological research. 

AlphaFold 3 predicts the shapes and behaviors of large biomolecules like DNA, RNA and proteins, as well as small molecules that are often used in drugs, according to a Google blog post. When the model is prompted with a list of molecules, it can show how they all fit together by generating their joint 3D structure. 

Modeling molecules like proteins has historically been an arduous task for researchers. Google said experimental protein-structure prediction can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take years to complete. As a result, Google said AlphaFold 3 could help accelerate drug discovery and genomics research, and contribute to new scientific discoveries like “biorenewable materials and more resilient crops.”

The model was developed by Google DeepMind, which researches and builds AI systems, and Isomorphic Labs, which explores applications of AI within drug development. Since AlphaFold 3 includes a broad group of biomolecules, it goes beyond the capabilities of AlphaFold 2, which can only predict the structures of proteins. 

DeepMind announced AlphaFold 2 in 2020. The model has since been used by “millions” of researchers to develop cancer treatments, malaria vaccines and design enzymes, Google said. 

AlphaFold 3 is able to predict the interactions between proteins and other molecules at least 50% better than other existing methods, and the model doubled the prediction accuracy for other interaction categories, according to the blog post. 

“We believe this new technology has the potential to be transformative for biological research,” Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis said in a LinkedIn post.

Google said scientists will be able to access the “majority” of AlphaFold 3’s capabilities for free through its new AlphaFold Server. The company launched the server as part of its “ongoing commitment to share the benefits of AlphaFold,” the blog post said.

Researchers from Google DeepMind and Isomorphic Labs published their findings in the scientific journal “Nature.”

Feel free to send any tips, suggestions, story ideas and data to Ashley at ashley.capoot@nbcuni.com.



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