The Year of Ozempic.
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1. The New Yorker:
Novo Nordisk wanted a medication that people didn’t have to inject every day, so it developed a once-weekly formulation. For reasons that remain a mystery, semaglutide, which is sold under the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy, caused profound reductions in weight. A two-hundred-pound woman might easily lose thirty pounds on the medication. People who had struggled to lose weight since childhood suddenly could.
Last year, the news spilled from scientific journals onto social media, generating hope for patients, excitement among doctors, and a windfall for Novo Nordisk. It is now the most valuable listed company in Europe, worth nearly half a trillion dollars, and Novo Nordisk is responsible for essentially all of Denmark’s recent economic growth. Meanwhile, there are scores of similar drugs in development, including pills, which patients prefer to injections. In June, a clinical trial sponsored by Eli Lilly found that a pill with the melodious name orforglipron caused weight reductions on par with Ozempic’s. Soon, millions of people could wake up, brush their teeth, and swallow their orforglipron along with their multivitamins or baby aspirin.
The science of GLP-1 agonists has often zigged, and now it might zag. GLP-1 produces all sorts of cascading effects; the human body has receptors for it not only in the gut but also in the liver, muscles, and brain. Studies keep turning up surprises: some of the medications appear to reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes, slow the progression of kidney disease, and shrink dangerous fat deposits in the liver. People who take them have reported diminished cravings for alcohol and tobacco; some have reported feeling less compelled to gamble, compulsively pick at their skin, and engage in other addictive behaviors. “It’s an unprecedented situation,” Christian Hendershot, a University of North Carolina clinical psychologist who is studying semaglutide’s effect on alcohol use, told me. “The anecdotal reports of people saying these drugs are helping them cut back on drinking or smoking have come much faster than our clinical studies can confirm.” Lizard venom helped to turn an obscure hormone into potent diabetes medications, and then into the most promising weight-loss treatments in history. We’re still discovering how much they’ll change our lives. (Source: newyorker.com)
2. Ed. Note: When you think about the implications of an “Ozempic” pill (sold at a much lower price point than injections), it’s staggering. Less food consumed, less alcohol imbibed, fewer smoked cigarettes, less money wagered…..the impact will be seismic. And that’s just the beginning. Other major consequences will include substantial reductions in healthcare spending.
The cost of manufacturing injectable Ozempic is expensive. It requires unusual precision. The cost of making a pill, once perfected (likely in the next year or two), is negligible. So we’re at the beginning of this story. The New Yorker piece excerpted above starts at the beginning and is worth reading in full. (Source: newyorker.com)