The name brand injection is not covered by most insurance, costing patients approximately $1,500.
NEW ORLEANS – We know that when it comes to weight loss and maintenance, genetics make it harder for some people, but when we told you about a new drug, called Weight Loss Game Changer , not everyone could get it.
Now, local doctors are helping to make it accessible to more people.
It was February when Ramsey Hare told us on his 30th birthday that his weight had dropped to 380 pounds. She didn’t want to deal with the emotional pain anymore.
“Traveling on a plane, having to ask for a seat belt extender, just little things like that, that were emotionally traumatic,” said Ramsey Hare, a nurse with Surgical Specialists of Louisiana.
Bariatric surgery to reduce the size of her stomach and regulate her hormones helped her come down to 150 pounds, but a decade later injections of steroids and fertility hormones made the extra pounds quickly return.
“And I was terrified. None of my clothes fit me. My scrubs were not suitable for work. Brought back so many painful memories of, you know, depression, and just anxiety,” Hare recalled.
Then she heard about a new FDA-approved once-a-week injection called Wegovy.
“It’s simple. It’s painless, and it was a miracle. In three weeks I lost 18 pounds and in three months I had lost 38 pounds. And so at six months I was weighing up to at 47 pounds,” Hare said.
The drug helps suppress your appetite, those cravings, by regulating the hormone insulin, but after we told Ramsey’s story on Wednesday about weight loss, calls for treatment poured in to doctors from surgical specialists in Louisiana. With insurance, weekly injections only cost $25 a month, but many new patients were turned down by their insurance companies and couldn’t afford the monthly price of $1,500 to $1,700.
“Oh, they were very upset. Very angry. We had few that were covered, but there were more uncovered than covered,” said Jamie Zepeda, medical assistant at Surgical Specialists of Louisiana.
So the doctors decided to do something about it. They found a compounding pharmacy that could custom-make semaglutide, i.e. the generic drug, for a fraction of the cost. It’s only $250 a month.
“They are so excited and grateful that this is an opportunity for them. This drug is really different from others I have used in the past. something that’s game-changing. People have a lot less appetite and they keep their weight off,” said Dr. Buddy Leithead, bariatric surgeon at Surgical Specialists of Louisiana.
At the clinic, they do both surgical and medical weight loss, using a variety of drugs to help patients, but since the injection came on the market at a lower price about a month ago, they have increased the number of their medical patients by three to five times.
“We just saw a patient today who lost seven pounds in one month. It was her first month of treatment and she’s already lost seven pounds,” Zepeda said.
One of the side effects of Wegovy has been mild nausea, but with the compound Semaglutide, vitamin B-12 is added and helps reduce this side effect.
“Yeah, we don’t get the phone calls saying, ‘I’m nauseous. I need Zofran. With other medications, Zofran should be prescribed at the same time. This drug, we didn’t have to,” Zepeda said.
And as patients lose weight, they also lose the long list of other chronic and often dangerous health conditions that come with it.
“We have a lot of patients who are able to stop taking medication after taking this. And it’s not just about losing weight, it’s a real metabolic process,” explained Dr. Leithead.
And doctors say this drug works better than the daily pills they prescribed in the past. These pills that can cause nervousness, anxiety and sleepless nights. So now patients can lose weight like Ramsey did, without major losses to their bank accounts.
Doctors treat men and women with the compound drug, as well as teenagers, with the permission of their parents.