New Diabetes Drugs Transforming Weight-Loss Industry in America
The weight-loss industry in America is being transformed by new drugs such as Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro. These drugs, which have been approved to treat Type 2 diabetes, are also being used off-label for weight loss and have been shown to lead to significant weight loss according to research, doctors, and patients. They are seen as a game-changer for an industry that has long relied on the traditional approach of diet, exercise, and willpower. Companies such as WeightWatchers are embracing the new drugs, and some, including WeightWatchers, are betting on them as a critical part of the industry's future. Others are positioning their diet and exercise programs as a natural alternative to pharmaceuticals, championing the notion that there is no quick fix.
The rise of these drugs is sparking an existential crisis for the industry, which rang up $76 billion in sales in 2022 from weight loss and medical programs, diet soda and low-calorie frozen food, gym memberships, and other categories, according to research firm Marketdata LLC. Consumers who have struggled with traditional approaches to weight loss are finding success with the new drugs, and they are undermining long-held beliefs about the best way to lose weight.
Some consumers, such as Annick Lenoir-Peek, who has lost around 30 pounds since starting Ozempic, are reporting improved health outcomes and are traveling more, which is creating a dilemma for the weight-loss industry. Companies are struggling with whether to embrace the drugs or stick with pushing diet and lifestyle changes or find a middle ground. WeightWatchers, for example, has bought Sequence, a telehealth company that connects members to doctors who can prescribe Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro, and other drugs used for weight loss. The move has upset some members of its community who believe in the traditional approach of diet and exercise, but the company sees an opportunity to market access to the new drugs to its former members.
The weight-loss industry has been around for decades, with companies like WeightWatchers, Atkins, and Jane Fonda urging people to lose weight through food tracking, lifestyle changes, and exercise. Weight-loss drugs have come and gone, often felled by links to health problems. The new drugs, however, have been shown to lead to significant weight loss, and companies are rethinking their business models and strategies to adapt to this changing landscape.