Jan 29, 2024 - News

Arkansas among the top states for prescribing trending weight loss drugs

Rate of GLP-1 prescriptions dispensed to patients
Data: PurpleLab HealthNexus database; Map: Axios Visuals

Arkansas was among the top 10 states last year for prescribing a drug that belongs to a buzzy class of diabetes and anti-obesity medications, per insurance claims data provided to Axios by health analytics firm PurpleLab.

Why it matters: The data offers a snapshot of where drugs known as GLP-1 agonists — like Ozempic and Wegovy, seen as game changers in the fight against obesity — are most in demand in the U.S, Axios' Tina Reed writes.

  • The states with the highest prescribing rates are also among those with greater prevalence of diabetes and obesity, per CDC data — a rough indication that the medicines may be getting to areas they are needed most, while shortages, high prices and insurance restrictions have limited their use.

Zoom in: Arkansas had the third-highest diabetes mortality rate in the country as of 2021, and the disease is its eighth-leading cause of death.

  • About 37.4% of Arkansas adults are obese, according to the CDC.

By the numbers: For every 1,000 people in Arkansas, about 13.3 were prescribed GLP-1 medications last year, tying the Natural State with Idaho for the eighth-highest prescription rate.

Of note: A month's supply of these drugs paid for fully out of pocket will typically set you back $900 to $1,300.

  • Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, the largest private health insurer in the state, covers Ozempic for diabetes but not for weight loss, spokesperson Max Greenwood told Axios. The same is true for most Medicaid and Medicare programs.

Go deeper: Doctors grapple with patients' demand for weight-loss drugs

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