Buried in Wegovy Costs, North Carolina Will Stop Paying for Obesity Drugs

In June 2021, the insurance plan for North Carolina state employees was paying for 2,800 people to take weight-loss drugs.

Last year, it paid for nearly 25,000. Medications like Wegovy cost the North Carolina State Health Plan $100 million last year, rising seemingly out of nowhere to represent 10 percent of its spending on prescription drugs.

“This is something we never anticipated,” said Dale Folwell, the state treasurer, whose office runs the health plan.

Alarmed by the ballooning costs, the health plan’s governing board voted on Thursday to end all coverage of medications for weight loss, including Wegovy, which accounts for the vast majority of its spending on obesity drugs. The plan will continue covering versions of the drugs for people with diabetes.

In the past few years, appetite-suppressing drugs have surged in popularity because they are extraordinarily effective in helping patients lose weight. Research suggests the medications may pay for themselves or even save money in the long run, by preventing heart attacks and strokes that lead to huge hospital bills.

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