Shifting Strategies in Weight Loss Companies
Two of the giants in the weight-loss industry, WeightWatchers and Noom, are redefining their strategies to align with scientific advancements in the management of obesity. Both companies, renowned for their long-standing focus on diet and exercise, are expanding their offerings to include prescriptions for Wegovy and similar drugs, acknowledging obesity as a chronic disease.
This transformation began with WeightWatchers’ purchase of Sequence, a telehealth company offering obesity drug prescriptions, back in March. On the other hand, Noom launched its own telemedicine platform, Noom Med, just last month, granting users access to obesity drugs and providing psychological tips for weight loss.
Understanding Obesity: A Medical Perspective
The move to incorporate prescription drugs into their offerings stems from an evolving scientific understanding of obesity. “Obesity is a disease,” asserts Dr. Linda Anegawa, Noom’s Chief of Medicine, “and as the medical community has transitioned into this concept, we would be remiss in not joining as well.”
Dr. Gary Foster, Chief Scientific Officer at WeightWatchers, expressed a similar sentiment. He sees the incorporation of medication as a “natural next step” for the company, adding that “as science and consumers are evolving in this space, so are we to meet their needs.”
Ozempic and Wegovy: The Game Changers
Wegovy and Ozempic, both brand names for semaglutide, are revolutionizing the fight against obesity. They lower blood sugar and suppress appetite by imitating a hormone that signals fullness to the brain. Trials reveal that semaglutide can help people shed an average of 15% body weight.
The demand for Wegovy has surged since 2021 when it was approved by the FDA for weight loss in adults with obesity and overweight individuals with at least one weight-related health condition.
A New Chapter for Weight-Loss Companies
Companies failing to incorporate medication into their business models may find themselves at a disadvantage, as seen with the closure of Jenny Craig last month. WeightWatchers and Noom are stepping up to the plate to meet the demand and align themselves with current scientific understanding, but it’s also clear that profit is a driving factor.
The Future of Obesity Treatment: Accessibility & Sustainability
The expansion of weight-loss companies into obesity drugs may benefit patients, given the high demand for services from obesity medicine doctors. However, concerns are raised about the potential for over-prescription of medications down the line, particularly by for-profit companies.
Both Noom Med and Sequence maintain they’re committed to responsible prescribing and follow FDA guidelines and recommendations from obesity medicine associations.
Navigating the Cost: Is it Worth it?
One potential hurdle for these programs is their cost. Noom Med adds an additional $49 per month to the standard Noom subscription, which ranges from $42 to $209 per month. Sequence’s subscription stands at $99 per month. And these prices do not include the cost of the medications themselves, which can exceed $1,000 per month without insurance.
As the fight against obesity continues to evolve, companies will need to evaluate their offerings to ensure they’re meeting consumer needs and expectations in a responsible and cost-effective manner. As Dr. Eduardo Grunvald, an obesity medicine physician at UC San Diego Health, asks, “The question is going to become, is it necessary? Is that extra cost necessary?”
In the end, the value lies in the eye of the beholder. Only time will tell how these new strategies will fare in the ever-changing landscape of weight management.