Aetna Insurance Paying for Obesity Pills

One decision made by one health insurance company can really change the ways of the whole industry.  Aetna has made the decision to cover the cost of weight loss drugs for some of its patients.  This not only helps these patients, but the drug makers have seen an increase in stock prices because of this decision by Aetna.  They will be selling more weight loss drugs because of Aetna’s patients, but it also is likely that other health insurers will follow Aetna’s lead and cover the drugs for their patients as well.  This information comes from The Associated Press article “Weight loss drugmakers rise on Aetna Policy Update.”

Vivus Inc.’s Qsymia and Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s Bleviq will now be covered by Aetna for patients who have a medical necessity.  Aetna already covers Pfizer Inc.’s Didrex, GlaxoSmithKline plc’s Alli, and Roche’s Xenical.  Aetna has the third largest enrollment of all health insurance companies in the United States.  With 35% of the population being obese, Aetna has deemed this medical problem serious enough to cover drugs to help take care of it.  Untreated, obesity leads to a host of other medical conditions that may cost insurers much more than these pills.

It’s not yet clear how many more people will be able to receive these drugs with Aetna’s policy update.  Compare other health plans and it’s likely that the largest insurers will follow Aetna’s lead in covering these weight loss drugs.  The FDA has been more willing to approve new weight loss drugs in the last year.  A new drug is expected to be sent for approval next year.  With the news of Aetna’s policy change, Vivus’ shares increased 13% and Arena Pharmaceuticals’ went up by 3.4%.  Orexigen Therapeuticals Inc., who is developing obesity drug Contrave, saw a 6.9% increase in their share price.  Maybe these obesity drugs can help stop the increasing rate of obesity in the United States.

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