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1 in 8 adults took GLP-1 like Ozempic: survey

Rebekah Carl poses with her Wegovy prescription in New Columbia, Pennsylvania, United States on November 13, 2023.

Hannah Beier | Reuters

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Good afternoon! The use of a popular class of medications for weight loss and diabetes is more common than ever.

About 1 in 8 adults in the United States have used a GLP-1 drug at some point, according to a survey by health policy research organization KFF released Friday. About half of these Americans, or about 6% of American adults, are currently using one of these treatments.

This includes Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy weight loss injection and diabetes drug Ozempic, as well as Eli Lilly’s weight loss treatment Zepbound and its diabetes counterpart Mounjaro.

The survey shows that large numbers of Americans are taking these drugs despite intermittent shortages caused by unrelenting demand. These treatments have grown in popularity over the past year, despite their high costs and limited insurance coverage.

Let’s look at some of the data.

Most adults, more than 60 percent, who used a GLP-1 said they took it in part to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. This includes 39% who took a GLP-1 only to treat a chronic illness, and 23% who took one to treat a chronic illness and lose weight.

Meanwhile, 38% of adults who took a GLP-1 reported using them specifically for weight loss.

Notably, GLP-1 utilization differed by race and ethnicity.

  • About 18% of black adults have taken one of these medications
  • About 14% of Hispanic adults have used them
  • About 10% of white adults have taken one of these medications.

Black and Hispanic adults in the United States have a higher rate of obesity than white adults, according to KFF’s analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

There are also differences by age group, according to the survey.

Nearly 20% of adults aged 50 to 64 reported having ever taken a GLP-1, which is higher than the proportions reported by other age groups.

However, younger adults were more likely than those 65 and older to report taking a GLP-1 specifically for weight loss. KFF said this could reflect the fact that the federal Medicare program does not cover prescription weight-loss drugs.

Medicare can only cover weight loss treatments if they are approved in the United States for an additional health benefit, such as treating diabetes and reducing the risk of heart disease.

But the majority of all adults, whether or not they took a GLP-1, said they think Medicare should cover the cost of drugs when they are prescribed for weight loss and for people who are overweight, according to the KFF survey.

Yet more than half of adults with health insurance who took GLP-1s said their plan covered part of the cost of these drugs. Meanwhile, 24% said their insurance covered the entire cost of the drug, and 19% said they paid the entire cost themselves.

Data from this investigation may change in the future as GLP-1s are approved for use to treat other conditions, such as sleep apnea and fatty liver disease, putting more pressure on health plans to cover them. Stay tuned for our coverage on the use of these medications.

Feel free to send tips, suggestions, story ideas and data to Annika at annikakim.constantino@nbcuni.com.

Google DeepMind announces new AI model capable of predicting the structure of molecules

Pavlo Gonchar | Light flare | Getty Images

Google Wednesday announced a new artificial intelligence model called AlphaFold 3, which it says can illustrate the complex interactions and structures of “all the molecules of life.” The company hopes this model will transform drug discovery and biological research.

AlphaFold 3 predicts the shapes and behaviors of large biomolecules such as DNA, RNA and proteins, as well as small molecules often used in drugs, according to a Google blog post. When the model is given a list of molecules, it can show how they all fit together by generating their common 3D structure.

Modeling molecules such as proteins has always been a challenging task for researchers. Google said experimental protein structure prediction can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take years. Google said AlphaFold 3 could help accelerate drug discovery and genomics research, and contribute to new scientific discoveries such as “biorenewable materials and more resilient crops.”

The model was developed by Google DeepMind, which researches and builds AI systems, and Isomorphic Labs, which explores applications of AI in drug development. Because AlphaFold 3 includes a broad group of biomolecules, it goes beyond the capabilities of AlphaFold 2, which can predict protein structures.

DeepMind announced AlphaFold 2 in 2020. It has been used by “millions” of researchers in areas including cancer treatments, malaria vaccines and enzyme design, Google said.

AlphaFold 3 is able to predict interactions between proteins and other molecules at least 50% better than other existing methods, and the model has doubled the prediction accuracy for other categories of interactions, according to the blog post. blog.

“We believe this new technology has the potential to transform biological research,” Demis Hassabis, CEO of Google DeepMind, said in a LinkedIn post.

Google said scientists will be able to access the “majority” of AlphaFold 3’s capabilities for free through its new AlphaFold server. The company launched the server as part of its “continued commitment to sharing the benefits of AlphaFold,” the blog says.

Researchers from Google DeepMind and Isomorphic Labs published their findings in the scientific journal “Nature”.

Feel free to send tips, suggestions, story ideas and data to Ashley at ashley.capoot@nbcuni.com.

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