That’s how much people are willing to spend on weight loss drugs, according to a new survey

Boxes of Wegovy made by Novo Nordisk are seen at a pharmacy in London, Britain on March 8, 2024.

Hollie Adams | Reuters

Demand for weight-loss drugs is booming in the US despite their limited insurance coverage and prices of roughly $1,000 a month before rebates.

But some patients are willing to pay more out-of-pocket for these treatments than others, and that willingness is strongly related to their annual income.

That’s according to a recent Evercore ISI survey focused on GLP-1s, a new class of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity. Between January 24 and February 20, the company surveyed more than 600 participants who are currently taking a GLP-1, considering therapy, or who have taken it in the past but no longer do.

The findings about how much patients are willing to spend underscore concerns about equity in access to innovative drugs while insurance coverage is scarce.

GLP-1s include Novo Nordiskthe blockbuster Wegovy weight loss injection and diabetes counterpart Ozempic, along with Eli Lilly’s popular weight loss treatment Zepbound and diabetes injection Mounjaro.

A monthly package of a GLP-1 costs between $900 and $1,350 before insurance and other discounts. Both Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly have savings programs that aim to reduce out-of-pocket costs for weight loss medications, regardless of whether a patient has commercial insurance coverage.

A majority of nearly 60% of respondents with annual incomes of more than $250,000 said the highest price they are willing to pay out-of-pocket for a GLP-1 is more than $300 per month.

Only 4% of people with annual incomes below $75,000 said the same. Of that group, 64% said the maximum price they are willing to pay out-of-pocket for a GLP-1 is $50 per month or less.

According to the survey, the maximum number of people currently on GLP-1 said they are willing to pay out-of-pocket per month is roughly in line with what they actually paid for the treatment. Respondents with the highest price would be willing to pay less among those who used to take a GLP-1 or are considering taking the drug.

More than half of people currently taking a GLP-1 said they are paying a monthly price of $50 or less out of pocket. Almost 75% of those who used to take one of the drugs said they used the same amount.

A small portion of both groups paid more than $750 out of pocket per month for a GLP-1.

The survey also asked respondents how long they had been taking the drugs.

Notably, more than 80% of those who used to take treatment were only in therapy for 12 months or less. Some people stopped because of cost, while others stopped a treatment because they met their weight loss goal or experienced side effects.

The premature discontinuation of some patients is a concern of certain insurers who hesitate to cover them.

Still, nearly half of people currently taking GLP-1 said they intend to stay on the medication permanently. Only 10% of those who were considering treatment said the same. Of this group, more than 70% said they intended to stay on a GLP-1 until they reached their weight loss goal.

The survey also asked participants if they would take a GLP-1 again if they regained weight after stopping the drug. The majority of patients in all groups, those currently on a GLP-1, thinking about it, or who used to take one, said “yes.”

Among those who used to take a GLP-1, 42% said they regained “some” weight after stopping treatment. About 13% said they got most of it back, while 23% said they got all of it back. Another 23% said they stayed at a lower weight after stopping the drug.

This weight regain is consistent with what has been observed in some clinical trials with drugs such as Wegovy and Zepbound.

Another part of the survey asked participants if taking a GLP-1 affected their eating and drinking habits.

More than 70% of respondents report eating less when taking a GLP-1, regardless of whether they have pre-existing conditions. This refers to other health problems, such as diabetes, asthma or high blood pressure.

The survey’s finding comes as no surprise: GLP-1s work by mimicking a hormone produced in the gut to suppress a person’s appetite and regulate blood sugar. Some treatments, such as Zepbound, mimic more than one gut hormone.

More than half of those without pre-existing conditions said they drank less alcohol when taking a GLP-1. About 27% said the treatment had no effect on their drinking, while 22% said they abstained from drinking.

A higher percentage of 51% of patients with pre-existing conditions said they abstain from alcohol. The rest said they consumed less alcohol when taking a GLP-1.

Several studies have shown that certain GLP-1s inhibit alcohol intake in rodents and monkeys. But more research is needed in humans.

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— CNBC’s Gabriel Corts contributed to this report

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