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Weight loss drug could be life-saving, but it's tough for patients to get

New weight loss drug could be life-saving for some patients
New weight loss drug could be life-saving for some patients 02:11

BOSTON - Kimberly DelRosso of Pembroke spent much of her adult life in a constant battle with her sweet tooth and the scale. "I have tried every diet," she said. None were successful. 

But Kimberly says she's now a different person, down at least 40 pounds since February thanks to a drug called Wegovy. 

It's a once-a-week injection, much like an Epi-pen. "It flips some sort of switch in my brain that tells me I'm not hungry," she said explaining how it works. 

Kimberly says she's got tons of energy and was able to go hiking this fall in Yellowstone National Park. "It's wonderful. It's a huge achievement," she said. "I feel really good." 

Kimberly's doctor is Caroline Apovian, the Co-Director for the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at Brigham and Women's Hospital. She calls Wegovy, which is identical to a diabetes drug called Ozempic, a game changer for patients with obesity. "This is incredible because it starts to approach the kind of weight loss we see with bariatric surgery," she said. 

The problem is the drug isn't available to everyone. Supply is part of it. Celebrities like Elon Musk have been outspoken about using the drug to trim down and it's increased the demand for the drug. 

Kimberly says there are some months where she's had trouble getting her prescription filled. "I'm running around pharmacy to pharmacy trying to get it," she said. And Dr. Apovian says lower dosages needed for new patients just starting the treatment are not available at all. 

But Dr. Apovian's great worry is that it's expensive, about $1,500 a month and many insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid won't cover it. She believes it's a matter of life or death for some of her patients who are not eligible for organ transplants because they are obese. "They are in congestive heart failure, and they are going to die without a cardiac transplant, and they can't even get on the transplant list unless their BMI (Body Mass Index) is less than 35," she said. 

WBZ reached out to MassHealth, the Massachusetts version of Medicaid and a spokesperson said, "MassHealth is currently evaluating this regulation to determine if changes are necessary to allow for the coverage of these medications." 

Kimberly's insurance has covered the drug so far, but there's no guarantee that will continue. She doesn't understand why they don't see that the drug will save them money in the long run. "I came off the high blood pressure medication, I no longer have sleep apnea, I'm not borderline diabetic," she said. 

There is one other drawback to the drug. Some patients report having lost pleasure in eating. 

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