Weight loss drug maker plots ‘buy now, pay later’ offer

Wegovy
Wegovy

Obesity drug maker Novo Nordisk said it would give countries “buy now, pay later” options for its treatments, as it plots a push to treat more people who currently cannot access its jabs.

Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, chief executive of the Dutch pharmaceutical company, said Novo Nordisk was in talks to boost take-up of its weight loss jabs by helping healthcare services to spread out the cost of the treatments.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Jørgensen said innovative pricing deals would allow countries to “adopt medicines upfront, see the benefits and pay down the road”.

He added: “How can healthcare systems justify making a large one-time payment upfront that leads to significant savings down the road? I think we need to share that risk to get going.”

Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy treatment has been found to help people lose up to 15pc of their weight after one year, with high-profile figures including Elon Musk and Boris Johnson crediting it for helping them to lose weight.

However, there are currently limits on who can access it on the NHS as well as in other countries.

In Britain, decisions over who is offered which treatments on the NHS are made by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) based on cost-effectiveness.

To be eligible for Wegovy, people have to have at least one weight-related disease, such as hypertension, and a BMI of 35. People with a BMI of 30 to 34.9 can also access the treatment, but they have to meet certain criteria which means they can be referred to specialist weight management services.

A spokesman for Novo Nordisk said: “The NICE Final Appraisal Determination recommendation for Wegovy confirms it is a cost-effective use of NHS resources.”

NICE can decide to look again at whether to recommend treatments for wider use among the public if more evidence emerges that makes them more cost-effective. Early trial data in August suggested that Novo Nordisk’s best-selling Wegovy drug could also slash the risks of heart attacks and strokes.

Mr Jørgensen said Novo Nordisk needed to treat many more patients if it was to make a “dent” in obesity levels, adding: “We are open to what types of arrangements we can make with healthcare systems that could help them serve the patients who need it the most.”

Supplies of the weight-loss treatments are, however, likely to be constrained for some time, with Novo Nordisk recently saying it would be years before shortages eased. Novo Nordisk and rival Eli Lilly, which makes its own weight-loss treatment, have been racing to scale up production.

Last week, Novo Nordisk announced a £1.9bn deal to expand its manufacturing facilities in France.

Mr Jørgensen’s comments over more flexible payment options come amid a wider rethink within the NHS at whether it could be doing more innovative pricing deals to get more new medicines out to patients.

The UK is among the leading countries in striking these deals, which can include clauses to make contracts less financially risky for the NHS such as introducing patient spending caps.

NHS England earlier this month said it was looking at “innovative payment models” for treatments such as gene therapy and would be running a pilot to strike “outcome-based agreements”.

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