Almost half of adults surveyed by KFF would be interested in taking a weight-loss drug, including many who say they only want to lose a little weight.
About 80% of adults surveyed by KFF said health insurance should cover the cost of prescription weight loss drugs for those who have been diagnosed as overweight or obese. And 53% said insurance should cover the cost for anyone who wants to lose weight.
These are finding from KFF’s recent Tracking Poll, administered in July. KFF surveyed 1,327 adults in the United States. The surveys were weighted to match the sample’s demographics to the U.S. population using the Census Bureau’s 2022 Current Population Survey.
This comes at a time when a new class of drugs — Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic (semaglutide) and Wegovy (semaglutide) and other GLP-1 drugs — have become available for weight loss. Initially, these were approved to treat patients with diabetes, but increasingly they are being used for weight loss. Semaglutide mimics a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food intake. GLP-1 drugs have become so popular for weight loss that they are being used off-label by people who don’t have diabetes.
Obesity is a common disease that is increasing. U.S. prevalence increased from 30.5% during the period 1999 to 2000 to 41.9% during the 2017 to March 2020, according to the CDC. Obesity-related conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, are among the leading causes of preventable death.
Additionally, the KFF survey found that 45% of the public are at least somewhat interested in taking a prescription weight-loss drug, including many who say they only want to lose a little weight, though many people lose interest when presented with potential financial and medical drawbacks.
Health plans, however, are grappling with whether and how to cover these expensive therapies. A recent survey by Pharmaceutical Strategies Group (PSG) found that 14% of those who provide coverage for these weight loss drugs said they placed limits on coverage such as duration or quantity limits. But only 16% said they measure the outcomes of obesity medications and another 36% said they are planning to do so.
Additionally, of the plans and employers surveyed that do provide coverage for weight loss drugs, 22% require members to participate in a lifestyle modification program as a prerequisite for medication coverage. Another 20% said participation in such a program is voluntary.
The KFF survey also found that American consumers want more regulation for prescription drug costs, and this has increased since 2021 when KFF conducted a similar survey. In the current survey, 73% said there is not enough government regulation when it comes to limiting the price of prescription drugs.