WeightWatchers is moving into the booming fat-loss injection market, it announced today.
The company is buying digital health firm Sequence, a $99-a-month subscription service that offers virtual appointments with doctors who can prescribe weight-loss drugs like Wegovy.
It means WeightWatchers customers will be able to access medical interventions alongside the food-tracking and lifestyle alterations it already offers.
The drugs – originally targeted for people with diabetes – have exploded in popularity after several celebrities and influencers were rumored to have used them to slim down, including Kim Kardashian and Elon Musk.
The anti-obesity drug market is soaring after the FDA’s approval of Wegovy and Ozempic, with global sales of all obesity drugs expected to total $30 billion by 2030.
WeightWatchers has long offered food-tracking and lifestyle alterations, but is now looking to offer customers a medical answer to weight loss
Sima Sistani, WeightWatcher’s chief executive, called the fat-melting shots ‘the biggest innovation in our industry today’, reported the Wall Street Journal.
She said: ‘There’s real excitement for the health outcomes of these medications.’
Sequence opened its services in 2021 and had accumulated 24,000 members as of last month.
Subscribers are first asked about their height, weight and existing medical conditions.
They can then access physicians who can prescribe weight-loss meds. They can also download an app to measure their weight loss and meet online with dietitians and fitness coaches.
WeightWatchers’ chief scientific officer Gary Foster said the company intends to promote Sequence’s services to its members.
It also hopes to offer programs for people using weight-loss drugs focused on retaining and regaining muscle, since this is a side effect of shedding the pounds.
But he added: ‘We know weight management isn’t one-size-fits-all and clinical interventions are not medically or otherwise appropriate for everyone, which is why we remain committed to all pathways.’
The deal is due to be finalized between April and June this year.
WeightWatchers is estimated to have around 5million members worldwide.
The blockbuster drugs work by mimicking the effects of GLP-1, a hormone that slows the movement of food through the intestines – making a person feel full for longer.
But the drugs are not without side effects. Last month doctors told DailyMail.com that most patients lose more muscle than fat while taking the drug.
And trials show that patients who come off the drug pile the pounds back on in months.
Despite the concerns, Wegovy, its sister drug Ozempic, and other similar weight loss drugs were instant hits in the pharmaceutical industry, becoming so popular they spent much of last year in short supply. Novo Nordisk, its manufacturer, says supply issues will soon be quelled.
Users of drugs such as Wegovy and Ozempic self-administer a once-weekly injection of the medication.
Doses start small, at 0.25mg, before working their way up to the 2.4mg per week maintenance phase.
The body does not naturally produce GLP-1 hormones like this. Instead, it produces them when needed to regulate appetite. Naturally, there will never be that level of hormones active in the body at once.
Semgalutide also has a half-life of around seven days, meaning when a person takes their weekly injection, much of last week’s injection is still in their body.
The Chinese team is not certain, but they fear this could cause issues for a person’s digestive system.
The scientists say it is hard to measure the growth of a person’s intestine, meaning it is unlikely that it would have been caught in clinical trials.
The earliest sign of the stomach issue is constipation, a frequent symptom that a multitude of other health issues could cause.
Wegovy has been a golden goose for the Danish Novo Nordisk since it first became available in 2021.
In clinical trials, obese people who used the drug alongside a fitness plan dropped 15 percent on their body weight over 68 weeks – far outpacing other weight-loss drugs.
The drug, a reformulated version of its diabetes drug Ozempic, was so popular that its stock was nearly wiped out for the second half of 2022.
It comes with a high price, too, costing users over $1,000 per month if their insurance does not pay for it.
Concerns are rising about its use, though. Some fear that doctors are now turning towards pharmaceuticals to fix America’s growing obesity crisis — instead of the more natural diet and exercise.
Another study also found that users of the drug will regain all of their lost weight once the drop the weekly shots.
The drug has seen uptake among Hollywood’s biggest stars. Actress Chelsea Handler admitted to using the drug – though unknowingly – to lose weight earlier this year.
Billionaire tech tycoon Elon Musk has admitted to using Wegovy for weight loss on his Twitter last year.