KFF Health Tracking Poll May 2024: The Public’s Use and Views of GLP-1 Drugs


Key Findings

  • The latest KFF Health Tracking Poll finds that about one in eight adults (12%) say they have ever taken a GLP-1 agonist – an increasingly popular class of prescription drugs used for weight loss and to treat diabetes or prevent heart attacks or strokes for adults with heart disease – including 6% who say they are currently taking such a drug. The share who report ever taking these drugs rises to four in ten (43%) among adults who have been told by a doctor that they have diabetes, a quarter who have been told they have heart disease, and one in five (22%) who have been told by a doctor that they are overweight or obese in the past five years. Public awareness of GLP-1 drugs has increased in the past year, with about one-third (32%) of adults now saying they have heard “a lot” about these drugs, up from 19% in July 2023.
  • Most adults who have taken GLP-1 drugs say they took them to treat a chronic condition including diabetes or heart disease (62%), while about four in ten say they took them primarily to lose weight.
  • About half (54%) of all adults who have taken GLP-1 drugs say it was difficult to afford the cost, including one in five (22%) who say it was “very difficult.” While most insured adults who have taken these drugs say their insurance covered at least part of the cost, even among insured adults about half (53%) say the cost was difficult to afford.
  • While 8% of adults ages 65 and older say they have taken a GLP-1 medication for a chronic condition, just 1% say they have ever taken a GLP-1 drug to lose weight, which may reflect Medicare’s lack of coverage for prescription drugs used for weight loss. Nearly four in ten (37%) adults ages 65 and older report being told by a doctor they are overweight or obese in the past five years.
  • With Medicare currently prohibited by law from covering prescription drugs used for weight loss, six in ten adults say they think Medicare should cover the cost of these drugs when prescribed for weight loss for people who are overweight, including more than half of Democrats, independents and Republicans. Similar shares of the public continue to support Medicare coverage of these drugs for weight loss even after hearing arguments for and against this proposal.

Use, Access and Affordability of GLP-1 Drugs

KFF’s latest Health Tracking Poll examines the public’s views and use of an increasingly popular group of drugs that include Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro and others that belong to a class of prescription medications known as GLP-1 agonists. GLP-1 drugs have garnered an increasing amount of media attention and some notable celebrity endorsements in the U.S., with much of the focus on their use for weight loss, though many of these drugs are also prescribed to treat diabetes or reduce risk of heart attack or stroke.

A large and increasing share of the public say they have heard about GLP-1 drugs, with about eight in ten (82%) adults saying they have heard at least “a little” and about three in ten (32%) saying they have heard “a lot” about these drugs. The share of the public who report having heard about these drugs has increased since July 2023 when seven in ten adults reported having heard at least “a little” about these drugs and one in five (19%) said they had heard “a lot.”

The share who say they have heard “a lot” about these drugs rises to at least four in ten among those who have ever been told by a doctor that they have diabetes (45%) or heart disease (41%) or have been told by a doctor in the past five years that they are overweight or obese (42%) – the primary conditions these drugs are prescribed for.

Across age groups, awareness of these drugs is highest among older adults. About four in ten adults ages 50 to 64 and 65 and older say they have heard “a lot” about GLP-1 drugs, compared to about one-third of adults ages 30-49 (32%) and one in six adults ages 18-29 (17%). Notably, older adults are more likely than their younger peers to have been told by a doctor that they have diabetes or heart disease.

Adults with annual household incomes of $90,000 or greater are more likely than those with lower household incomes to say they have heard “a lot” about these drugs.

Overall, 12% of adults say they have ever used GLP-1 drugs, including 6% who say they are currently using them. The share who report ever taking these drugs rises to about four in ten (43%) among adults who have been told by a doctor that they have diabetes, a quarter (26%) of adults who have been told they have heart disease, and one in five (22%) adults who have been told by a doctor that they are overweight or obese in the past five years (some of whom also have diabetes or heart disease).

Black adults are somewhat more likely than White adults to report ever taking these drugs (18% v. 10%), while 13% of Hispanic adults say they have taken these drugs. KFF’s analysis of Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data shows that Black and Hispanic adults in the U.S. have a higher rate of obesity than White adults. For additional information on obesity rates and racial disparities, see KFF’s policy watch: What are the Implications of New Anti-Obesity Drugs for Racial Disparities?

Similar shares of adults regardless of gender, income, or health insurance coverage report taking these drugs.

Among the 12% of adults who have ever taken GLP-1 drugs, most report taking them, at least in part, to treat a chronic condition like diabetes or heart disease, with fewer saying they took them only to lose weight. Among those who have taken these drugs, six in ten (62%) say they took them to treat a chronic condition like diabetes or heart disease, including about four in ten (39%) who took them only to treat a chronic condition and one in four (23%) who say they took them to both treat a chronic condition and to lose weight. About four in ten (38%) adults who have taken these drugs report using them only to lose weight.

Among all adults, 7% say they have taken or are taking these drugs to treat a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease – either alone (5%) or in combination with intent of losing weight (3%) – while 5% of adults report ever taking these drugs to lose weight but not to treat a chronic condition.

About one in five (19%) adults ages 50-64 say they have ever taken GLP-1 drugs, higher than the shares reported by other age groups. Among adults ages 50-64, 15% say they have taken GLP-1 drugs to treat a chronic condition and 5% say they’ve taken them for weight loss only. Few adults under age 50 report having taken these drugs to treat chronic conditions, but similar shares of 18–29-year-olds (7%) and 30–49-year-olds (6%) report having taken them for weight loss. Among adults ages 65 and over, 8% say they have taken a GLP-1 medication for a chronic condition, while just 1% say they have taken these drugs only to lose weight, which may be a reflection of Medicare’s lack of coverage for prescription drugs used for weight loss. Nearly four in ten (37%) adults ages 65 and older report being told by a doctor they are overweight or obese in the past five years.

Alongside the relatively high cost of GLP-1 drugs in the U.S., there have been recent reports of shortages or limited availability of these drugs occurring as demand increases. Recent news reports have emphasized that some adults are seeking generic or compounded versions of these drugs through sources such as medical spas or compounding pharmacies, which may sell products claiming to be name-brand GLP-1s that have not been vetted by the F.D.A.

About eight in ten (79%) adults who have taken GLP-1 drugs report getting these drugs or a prescription for them from their primary care doctor or a specialist, while fewer report getting them from an online provider or website (11%), a medical spa or aesthetic medical center (10%), or from somewhere else (2%).

In the U.S., list prices for GLP-1 drugs can range from $936 to $1,349 before insurance coverage, rebates or coupons. Most insured adults who have taken GLP-1 drugs say their insurance covered at least part of the cost. Among adults with health insurance who report ever taking these drugs, over half (57%) say their health insurance covered part of the cost of these drugs and they paid the rest, while one in four (24%) say their health insurance covered the full cost. One in five (19%) insured adults who have taken GLP-1s say they paid for the full cost themselves.

Despite the fact that few insured adults say they paid the full cost of these drugs themselves, many report difficulty affording them. About half of adults who have taken GLP-1s say it was difficult to afford the cost of these drugs. Among those who have taken these drugs, about half (54%) – including 53% of those with health insurance – say it was either “somewhat” or “very difficult” to afford to pay for these drugs, including one in five (22%) who say it was “very difficult,” including a similar share of adults with health insurance (23%).

Public Opinion on Medicare Coverage of GLP-1s for Weight Loss

While some Medicare drug plans cover the cost of some GLP-1s such as Ozempic or Wegovy when prescribed to treat diabetes or prevent heart attacks or strokes for adults with heart disease, Medicare is currently prohibited by law from covering drugs when prescribed for weight loss – for more information, see KFF’s issue brief on Medicare coverage of GLP-1s. KFF’s latest Health Tracking Poll finds that most adults think Medicare should cover the cost of these drugs when prescribed for weight loss for people who are overweight, with support remaining largely unchanged after hearing arguments for and against this proposal.

Overall, six in ten adults (61%), including similar shares across age groups, say they think Medicare should cover the cost of these drugs when prescribed for weight loss for people who are overweight, a share that rises to about seven in ten (71%) among those who have ever taken these drugs.

While more than half of adults across partisans say Medicare should cover the cost of these drugs for weight loss, Democrats (66%) are somewhat more likely than Republicans (55%) to say this.

Attitudes on some policy proposals may change when the public hears different arguments in favor or against certain proposals. After asking whether Medicare should cover the cost of GLP-1s when prescribed for weight loss for people who are overweight, the poll presented two different arguments for and against this proposal:

Argument against: Some people say that if Medicare covers the cost of these drugs, it could increase premiums paid by people with Medicare and place financial pressure on the Medicare program and the federal budget.

Argument in favor: Others say that if Medicare covers the cost of these drugs, it could help more people afford these medications and improve health and quality of life for people who are overweight.

After being presented with these arguments, the public’s attitudes remain largely unchanged, with six in ten adults still saying they think Medicare should cover the cost of these drugs when prescribed for weight loss for people who are overweight. Attitudes also remained largely unchanged among adults 65 and older, among those who have taken GLP-1s and those who have not, and among independents and Republicans. Among Democrats, there is a slight increase in the share who say Medicare should cover the cost after hearing these arguments (71% after v. 66% before).



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