Weight loss drugs such as Ozempic, Wegovy could spell trouble for the diet industry (2024)

NEW YORK (AP) — Ever since college, Brad Jobling struggled with his weight, fluctuating between a low of 155 pounds when he was in his 30s to as high as 220. He spent a decade tracking calories on WeightWatchers, but the pounds he dropped always crept back onto his 5-foot-5-inch frame.

A little over a year ago, the 58-year-old Manhattan resident went on a new weight loss drugcalled Wegovy. He’s lost 30 pounds, and has started eating healthier food and exercising — the habits behind many commercial diet plans and decades of conventional wisdom on sustainable weight loss.

Yet Jobling’s experience also has altered his perspective on dieting. He now seesobesity as a diseasethat requires medical intervention, not just behavioral changes. In fact, he thinks he will need to stay on a drug like Wegovy for the rest of his life even though it has takensome of the joyout of eating.

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“I don’t see how you can maintain (the weight) without medication,” Jobling said. “Obviously, it’s all about self-control. But I think it’s less of a struggle to really maintain healthy eating when you got that assistance.”

Like thelives of the peopletaking them, recent injected drugs like Wegovy and its predecessor, the diabetes medication Ozempic, are reshaping the U.S. health and fitness industries. They have proven successful in eliminating unwanted pounds more quickly and easily than consuming fewer and burning more calories alone. Such is their disruptive power that even established diet companies like WeightWatchers and brands like Lean Cuisine are getting makeovers.

Although celebrities likeOprah Winfreyhave spoken publicly of the drugs as revolutionary, some health experts worry that businesses without any expertise will start dispensing the prescription medications along with bad advice and unproven therapies.

A DEMAND TOO BIG TO IGNORE

At least 3 million prescriptions for theclass of medicationsknown asGLP-1 agonistswere issued each month in the U.S. during the 12 months that ended in March, according to data from health technology company IQVIA. They include semaglutide, the drug in Ozempic and Wegovy, and tirzepatide, the drug in Mounjaro and Zepbound. Morgan Stanley research analysts have estimated that 24 million people, or 7% of the U.S. population, will be using GLPT-1 drugs by 2035.

The world’s leading diet programs have taken note of such statistics and incorporated the popular drugs into their existing subscription plans.

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WeightWatchers, which was founded in 1963, last yearacquired telehealth provider Sequence, enabling members to get prescriptions for weight loss drugs. WeightWatchers is sticking with its focus on behavior change as the cornerstone of weight reduction but launched virtual clinics that provide customized exercise and nutrition plans, as well as prescription care, for individuals who want to lose 20% of their body weight on average.

“The weight loss space will be led by the acknowledgement that weight loss is a matter of health care,” WeightWatchers CEO Sima Sistani told analysts earlier this year. “This is a paradigm shift because weight loss has been and, unfortunately, often still is viewed as a vanity issue.”

The Mayo Clinic, which first offered a weight management plan in book form in 1949, has published an updated version of the longtime bestseller, titled “The Mayo Clinic Diet: Weight-Loss Medications Edition.”

The Mayo Clinic Diet program also has expanded to include access to weight loss drugs and advice on managing any side effects, according to Digital Wellness CEO Scott Penn, whose company developed an online platform for the original program.

The new drugs have made being very overweight “feel more medical as a condition,” he said.

GYMS AND DIET FOOD COMPANIES LOOK TO MUSCLE IN

Luxury athletic club operator Life Time launched a membership program last year that offers comprehensive medical testing, personalized training and a host of alternative therapies like cryotherapy. Members of the Miora program also can get Ozempic and other weight loss drugs through the medical staff of a clinic that opened in Minneapolis last year.

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Jeff Zwiefel, executive director of Life Time Miora, called the new drugs a “game changer” for the fitness industry.

“We have an opportunity and an obligation and a responsibility to help people achieve results in conjunction with medical providers and make sure that that’s the way to go, ” he said.

Fitness chains are banking on the idea people on the drugs will lose enough weight to overcome any self-consciousness or physical limits that kept them from exercising. The gym franchise Equinox started a new personal training program in January for prescription-holders who want to preserve or build muscle mass as they shed unwanted pounds.

The world of drug-assisted weight loss also is altering the ambitions of food companies. Sales of SlimFast, a line of meal replacement shakes and snacks sold at supermarkets, have dropped as people turn to weight loss drugs and retailers cut shelf space for diet products, the brand’s parent company, Glanbia, told investors in February.

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Since the drugs suppress the appetites of people taking them, Glanbia and other companies are marketing their products as a source of adequate nutrients for people taking GLP-1s. Swiss multinational Nestle SA thinks it can benefit from the drugs’ popularity and is expanding its Lean Cuisine frozen meals and OPTIFAST protein shakes.

“Diets are cool again,” Nestle SA CEO Ulf Mark Schneider told analysts in February. “It’s something that people used to do quietly on the side, uncertain about their outcomes.”

PROMISING RESULTS AND A WEALTH OF UNKNOWNS

Researchhas shown that about a third of people lose 5% or more of their body weight with diet and exercise alone, according to Dr. Louis Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medical school. In comparison, the medicine in the diabetes drug Mounjaro helped people with obesity or who are overweight lose at least a quarter of their weight when combined with restricted calories and exercise,a new study showed.

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But some experts worry about businessesmarketing the drugsor serving as fitness coaches for patients on the medications. Dr. Cian Wade, a health care consultant for the global strategy and management firm Kearney, said he’s concerned about a proliferation of clinics that don’t have as much experience with obesity and related health conditions.

“There’s a potential worry that for some patients, (the clinics) will not have the right expertise at hand to be able to appropriately manage the side effects, nutrition-related issues,” he said.

Since GLP-1 medications are so new, it’s unclear how many patients willstick withtheir drug regimens, which produce intolerable side effects for some people. Another reason patients may drop the drugs iscost. A month’s supply of Wegovy costs $1,300, and Zepbound is priced at $1,000.‘

THE NEW VERSION OF ME’

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Lisa Donahey, 54, an actress and singer who lives in Los Angeles, started Mounjaro under a doctor’s care a year ago to address her Type 2 diabetes. At the time, Donahey, who is 5-foot-7-inches tall, weighed 260 pounds and was a veteran of diet plans like Jenny Craig, WeightWatchers and Nutrisystem.

Her weight has since dropped to a little less than 190 pounds. She goes to a gym. After always being cast as a character actor, she’s looking for new roles. Having used the medication to give her “a kick-start,” Donahey said she plans to wean herself off Mounjaro once she loses another 40 pounds.

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“I had a sense of hopelessness that I was destined to be this way and just could not do it by myself,” she said. “Now, with my weight being managed and the new version of ‘me’ is emerging, I just feel so empowered, excited and hopeful.”

Weight loss drugs such as Ozempic, Wegovy could spell trouble for the diet industry (2024)

FAQs

What is the controversy with Ozempic? ›

Currently, lawsuits have been filed concerning the side effects of Ozempic related to the stomach and the muscles of the stomach lining. Plaintiffs allege that Novo Nordisk concealed or downplayed these side effects, but there are other potential side effects that may lead to further legal action.

Have Ozempic and Wegovy upended the diet industry? ›

Medications such as Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro have upended a $76 billion industry that has long touted lifestyle shifts as a means to weight loss. Regina Herzlinger says these drugs might bring fast change, especially for busy professionals, but many questions remain unanswered.

Which is better for weight loss, Wegovy or Ozempic? ›

Is Wegovy or Ozempic better for weight loss? Since Wegovy is available in a higher maximum dose compared to Ozempic, it's possible that it may result in greater weight loss. However, the highest Wegovy and Ozempic doses — 2.4 mg and 2 mg — haven't been compared directly in studies.

Is there a warning about using Ozempic for weight loss? ›

There are many side effects of taking Ozempic as a weight loss medication, including: Gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Constipation. Stomach pain.

What is the new warning on Ozempic? ›

The reason it's making headlines is because the FDA added a new warning to the Ozempic label. FDA said the medication will now include a warning about potential intestinal blockage. That legal warning was also added to the weight loss drug Wegovy, which is made by the same manufacturer as Ozempic.

Why was Ozempic discontinued? ›

Promoting Ozempic, Wegovy, and compounded semaglutide on social media platforms like TikTok videos has also fueled its popularity, creating supply issues. This unexpected rise in demand caught Novo Nordisk off-guard, leading to supply constraints.

How did Kelly Clarkson lose weight? ›

Kelly Clarkson has shared some strategies that contributed to her recent weight loss. She credits several factors that contributed to losing weight, including exercise, eating a healthy mix of food, and allowing herself occasional treats. Clarkson also enjoys infrared saunas and cold plunges.

What are the long-term side effects of Ozempic? ›

Users Report Severe Long-Term Effects from Ozempic

Some users have reported heart palpitations, chest pain, and other cardiac-related issues. Individuals with pre-existing heart conditions should be especially cautious and discuss the risks of Ozempic with their healthcare providers.

What is the Ozempic lawsuit? ›

The Ozempic and Mounjaro stomach paralysis lawsuit was announced Wednesday, August 2, 2023, and has been filed based on “failure to warn” regarding Eli Lilly and Co. and Novo Nordisk's lack of appropriate labeling informing consumers such as the plaintiff of risks such as gastroparesis.

What is the poor man's Ozempic? ›

Called “the poor man's Ozempic,” psyllium husk is enjoying a rise in interest as an affordable alternative to semaglutide.

How do you get $25 wegovy? ›

Start your patients on Wegovy® today for as little as $0

After the patient's thirteenth (13th) 28-day fill, patients may then pay as little as $25 per 28-day supply (1 box) of Wegovy®. Patients with commercial insurance who do not have coverage for Wegovy® can save $500 per 28-day supply (1 box).

Who should not take Wegovy? ›

People who have had or have a family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma or an endocrine system condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2) should not take Wegovy. Likewise, you should not take Wegovy if you are allergic to semaglutide or any other ingredient in Wegovy.

How did Oprah lose weight? ›

Last year, Winfrey revealed that she uses weight-loss medication prescribed by her doctor as a “maintenance tool,” although she did not specify which drug she used. Winfrey said Monday that the drugs were bringing “a sense of hope” and were also freeing people — including her — from blaming themselves.

Is Oprah taking Ozempic? ›

Last December, the former TV host revealed that she had been taking weight-loss medication, although she declined to name which one. At the time, she said that the prevalence of drugs like Ozempic “feels like relief, like redemption, like a gift, and not something to hide behind and once again be ridiculed for.”

Did Kelly Clarkson use Ozempic? ›

Kelly Clarkson is crediting diet and exercise for her recent weight loss transformation – despite critics speculating that she's joined the long list of celebs using Ozempic to shed the pounds.

Why are doctors pushing Ozempic? ›

Ozempic, the so-called miracle drug, is rapidly changing the way doctors look at all sorts of health conditions. It mimics a digestive hormone that can lower blood-sugar levels, curbs appetite, and slows digestion, leading celebrities and normies alike to seek out the drug for its slimming side effects.

What is the black box warning on Ozempic? ›

There are severe health problems associated with this drug. The FDA has issued a boxed warning (previously called a Black Box Warning) for Ozempic due to its potential to cause thyroid tumors and thyroid cancer. A boxed warning is the most serious safety warning issued by the FDA and not something to take lightly.

Is Ozempic worth the risk? ›

Ozempic has also been shown to reduce major adverse coronary events, including heart attacks and strokes, and offers a host of other benefits, adds Dr. Cody Stanford. However, Ozempic isn't safe for everyone. According to the company, people with the following conditions should avoid using Ozempic: Pancreatitis.

Why are non diabetics taking Ozempic? ›

Semaglutide is the generic drug name for Wegovy and Ozempic, which are the most recognized brands used for weight loss treatments. These have been approved as an injectable medication for weight loss in non-diabetic individuals with obesity.

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