Weight-Loss Programs Push for Meds on Top of Diet and Exercise

(Photo Credit: Kenny Eliason/Unsplash)
(Photo Credit: Kenny Eliason/Unsplash)

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Eat right, stay active, and tame your inner food demons — but also inject this syringe deep into your stomach to keep the pounds off.

Noom, the telehealth app that built itself on a mindfulness approach toward weight loss, announced it’s launching a new medication portal to prescribe weight loss pharmaceuticals to plump patients.

Mind Over Matter

Noom champions a weight loss strategy that integrates psychology into traditional diets and exercise. Perhaps you’re a stress eater, or maybe grandma’s baked ziti recipe is too good to pass up. Noom intended to address the habits that contribute to weight gain.

Then came Ozempic. Everyone from Hollywood celebrities to TikTok influencers, to your single-and-ready-to-mingle aunt started injecting the diabetes medication to amazing results. Did all these people actually have diabetes? Irrelevant. The drug’s creator, Novo Nordisk, put his finger on the scale and pushed a repackaged formula through four, breezy 68-week trials to rubber stamp its efficacy as an anti-obesity medicine (the first new weight loss drug approved by the FDA since 2014).

Seeing the strong demand for the drugs — which are classified as glucagon-like peptides (or GLP-1s) generically — Eli Lilly released its own variant, Mounjaro. Its sales for the first quarter reached $569 million, outpacing estimates. Even Pfizer, which specializes in vaccines and cancer treatments, is entering the fray. This week, a peer-reviewed study of Pfizer’s phase 2 clinical trials revealed that its oral GLP-1 delivered similar weight loss results to Ozempic. In the ensuing four trading sessions, Pfizer’s added a chunky ~$20 billion to its market cap.

After a pilot run last year, Noom is now debuting its drug portal, Noom Med, and offering Wegovy for roughly $120 a month:

  • Technically speaking, the way Wegovy works falls in line with Noom’s initial weight loss via psychology strategy. It doesn’t break down fat, but rather makes you feel full and reduces your cravings.
  • In addition to Noom, programs like WeightWatchers, Calibrate, and Ro have entered the realm of meds, too, offering Wegovy and other GLP-1s. According to market research, the GLP-1 market in 2021 was valued at $16.53 billion, and is expected to reach $24 billion by 2027.

Hey, Wanna Buy Some Drugs: These kinds of drugs-over-the-internet models have had setbacks. It’s hard to get the full sense of a patient’s needs strictly through online means, which can then lead to massive gaps in oversight. During the pandemic, telehealth companies like Cerebral became an easy place to score Adderall and Xanax, highly addictive drugs that can induce highs. This prompted a DOJ investigation in 2022, and Cerebral has since halted prescribing controlled substances. In February, the Biden administration proposed tighter restrictions for online prescriptions of certain controlled substances. GLP-1s have a litany of side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, and in some cases, acute pancreatitis, but Noom says it has a layered vetting process that includes multiple video visits and text chats to correctly determine if a patient needs medication.