It has been announced that Japan’s public medical insurance will cover Wegovy, a new obesity treatment. This development comes amid debates over the potential misuse of such drugs for non-medical weight loss by healthy individuals.
The drug in question, Wegovy, is produced by Danish pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk. It was added to the Japanese national health insurance price list following its regulatory approval for manufacturing and sales in March. Wegovy contains semaglutide, a GLP-1 receptor agonist that stimulates insulin production and reduces blood sugar levels. It also suppresses appetite by inducing a sense of fullness and reducing cravings.
According to a newspaper report, coverage for Wegovy is limited to patients with specific health conditions such as high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol levels), and Type 2 diabetes, who have not seen adequate results from diet and exercise alone. Eligibility criteria include a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or above, or a BMI of 27 or above coupled with at least two obesity-related health issues.
Surcharge on Health Insurance Considered
Japan is considering imposing a Health Insurance surcharge to fund measures to boost Japan’s declining birth rate. The plan is for the government to secure additional funding in the mid-JPY3tn ($20bn) per year range.
The system is intended to provide benefits to the child-rearing generation. To avoid putting an excessive burden on the public, the draft states that “the amount of the contribution will be based on the ability to pay.”
Money for the support fund is likely to be collected and paid through the medical insurance system. A structure will be considered in which entities such as health insurance associations will be responsible for the day-to-day operations.
The draft states that the support fund will “first be allocated to support measures for the periods of pregnancy, childbirth and for children aged 0 to 2 years old.”