‘Ozempic’ Shouldn’t Be a Catchall

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Written By Pinang Driod

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Ozempic broke out in a big way this year. By the time Jimmy Kimmel made a crack at the Oscars about the medication, bringing it a new surge of national attention, diabetes and obesity drugs that suppress appetite had been on the rise for months. I spoke with my colleague Yasmin Tayag, who covers health and science for The Atlantic, about the future potential of these drugs and the existing barriers to access.

First, here are three new stories from The Atlantic:

  • The death of a gun-rights warrior
  • The moral decline of elite universities
  • Is this how Amazon ends?

Here to Stay

Lora Kelley: Before this year, I had never heard of Ozempic. Now I see articles and ads for appetite-suppressing drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy everywhere. To what extent are these treatments a passing fad versus a force that is here to stay?

Yasmin Tayag: These drugs are definitely here to stay. Doctors have seen obesity drugs come and go, but this particular class seems to have real staying power, because it works and it’s safe, as far as we can tell.

The class of appetite-suppressing drugs known as GLP-1 agonists has been around for a long time. Ozempic is one of the newer, more powerful drugs in this class.

There are so many similar new drugs in development. And they’re all trying to one-up one another in terms of potency, side effects, and even formulation—whether an injection or a pill. In 2024, we’re likely to see more pharmaceutical companies applying for approval for new drugs, and potentially a lot more people getting on the existing drugs that are already approved. They’re going to become more of a household concept. (I don’t want to say “household name,” because there are so many different brands coming out.)

There are a lot of silly, out-there projections about how the presence of these drugs will affect industries, from airplanes to snack food. If that future comes, it’s very far off. But in terms of health: If more Americans go on these drugs, the hope is that we’ll see rates of obesity go down and fewer people having related health problems.

Lora: What are some factors keeping people from accessing these drugs?

Yasmin: The major obstacle to these drugs becoming totally mainstream is the cost. They’re so expensive. They’re not covered by most private insurance providers or by Medicare, because traditionally, obesity has not been seen as a medical condition. It’s been seen as cosmetic. But as these drugs show a benefit in areas such as heart disease, insurance companies may face more pressure to cover them.

Lora: How will the market change as more brands try to break into this space?

Yasmin: The hope is that as more competitors enter the market, the prices of the drugs as a class are going to come down further and further. I don’t think prices will be appreciably different in 2024, but in five years, maybe we’ll start seeing some real change.

Obesity pills, which may be available as early as next year, could theoretically be good for costs in two ways: The first is that the pills themselves are cheaper to make, because they don’t require all of the hardware that goes into making an injectable pen, and they don’t need to be stored under refrigeration.

Lora: I find myself referring to this class of drugs using the catchall Ozempic. Will Ozempic become, like Kleenex, a brand name that stands in for a whole category?

Yasmin: Ozempic is frequently used to refer to this whole class of drugs. But Ozempic itself is actually not an obesity drug—it’s for diabetes. (The exact same drug, packaged and sold as Wegovy, is for obesity. They have the same active ingredient—semaglutide—and the only difference is that Wegovy is available in a higher dose.)

The names that companies are giving these drugs feel so ridiculous. When you list them, it’s like word salad. I can see why people want to have a single name to refer to all of them. For now, Ozempic is like Kleenex, but we should stop using it that way.

Related:

  • Are you sure you want an Ozempic pill?
  • The future of obesity drugs just got way more real.

Today’s News

  1. The House passed a $886.3 billion defense bill that authorizes the biggest pay raise for troops in more than 20 years and includes weapons funding for Ukraine and Israel.
  2. European Union leaders will open membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova after granting them candidate status in June 2022.
  3. When asked about Israel’s strikes on Gaza, Joe Biden said that he wants the Israeli military to “be more careful” and focus on saving civilian lives while going after Hamas.

Dispatches

  • The Weekly Planet: COP has given us a new floor for climate ambition, Zoë Schlanger writes.
  • Time-Travel Thursdays: U.S. presidents have always lied, David A. Graham writes. What exactly should we expect from our leaders?

Explore all of our newsletters here.


Evening Read

“Crouching Woman” (c. 1884–85), by Camille Claudel (Marco Illuminati)

Camille Claudel’s “Revolt Against Nature”

By Farah Peterson

In 1892, the French sculptor Camille Claudel applied to France’s Ministry of Fine Arts for a block of marble. As was customary, the ministry sent an inspector to decide whether her planned work was worth the state’s support. Her plaster model, showing two nude figures waltzing, was a “virtuoso performance,” the official wrote. Not even Auguste Rodin, Claudel’s mentor, could “have studied with more artistic finesse and consciousness the quivering life of muscles and skin.” But although the ministry commissioned equally sensual works from Rodin in that era, it refused to support one by a female artist …

Claudel bent every effort to make a name for herself, undeterred by the restrictive mores of her time. Though she won acclaim at the height of her brief career, her reputation faded in the decades after her death. Despite renewed interest in Claudel’s work in the 1980s, her tumultuous life story and Rodin’s role in it tended to deflect attention from her art, particularly in the United States. “Her best pieces,” H. W. Janson and Anthony F. Janson wrote in their canonical History of Art, “might pass for his.” But Claudel’s oeuvre, especially its sensitive and moving evocation of women’s interior lives, is not so easily dismissed. The new show presses the argument that Claudel ranks among the greatest French sculptors of the 19th century.

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic

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  • Why you might want to toss out your trophies

Culture Break

An image of Carol and Charles Stuart on their wedding day
Ira Wyman / Sygma / Getty / HBO

Watch. Murder in Boston: Roots, Rampage & Reckoning (streaming on Max), a docuseries about the 1989 murder of Carol Stuart, is the final word on a notorious killing.

Listen. Could a reelected President Donald Trump manipulate the military? On the latest episode of Radio Atlantic, Hanna Rosin and Tom Nichols discuss how it would be surprisingly easy.

Play our daily crossword.


Katherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.

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