Employer Coverage for Weight-Loss Drugs Rises Sharply, Survey Finds

REUTERS/Jim Vondruska/Illustration/File Photo//File Photo
A selection of injector pens for the Wegovy weight loss drug are shown in this photo illustration in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 31, 2023.

NEW YORK, June 13 (Reuters) – About one-third of U.S. employer health plans are offering coverage of GLP-1 drugs for both diabetes management and weight loss, up from last year, according to a survey of global employers released on Thursday by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

GLP-1 drugs for weight loss grew as a portion of employers’ overall medical claims spending to 8.9% in 2024 from 6.9% in 2023, the trade group’s survey found. Only about 26% of employers offered the drugs last year.

GLP-1 drugs promote weight loss by reducing appetite and causing the stomach to empty more slowly. First approved to treat diabetes, Novo Nordisk’s NOVOb.CO Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s LLY.N Zepbound are in high demand after having been shown to reduce weight by around 20%.

Some 57% of employers surveyed cover the drugs only for diabetic care. Of those, 19% are considering offering the drugs for weight loss.

The foundation comprises more than 33,000 member companies or public institutions, representing over 25 million employees in the U.S. and Canada.

Obesity’s association with chronic and higher-cost conditions, as well as consultant recommendations were most frequently cited as factors for employers considering covering GLP-1 drugs, the report said.

By the early 2030s, global sales for GLP-1 drugs should reach an annual $150 billion, according to some analyst forecasts this year. A 2023 forecast had predicted $100 billion in sales by early next decade.

Insurer resistance to covering the drugs is a limiting factor for sales growth for drugmakers, according to a December report by Morgan Stanley. Of the 110 million Americans with obesity, 40 million can currently access GLP-1 drugs for weight loss through their healthcare plans, the report said.