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Most weight loss drug users quit before seeing benefits

May 22, 2024

A majority of patients taking weight loss drugs discontinue use of their medication before reaching a clinically meaningful health benefit, according to new research published May 21 by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The study was conducted by Blue Health Intelligence and is based on national pharmacy and medical claims data from nearly 170,000 commercial insurance members, the largest study of its kind to date.

Members included in the study were prescribed Wegovy or Saxenda between July 2014 and December 2023 and had at least six months of continuous enrollment before and after they began taking GLP-1s. Patients taking GLP-1 drugs should complete at least 12 weeks of continuous treatment to achieve weight loss that will positively impact their health, according to BCBS.

“When patients take medication, we want it to be safe and effective,” Razia Hashmi, MD, vice president of clinical affairs at BCBSA, said. “This study shows most people are unlikely to see lasting benefits. Unfortunately, weight loss isn’t as simple as filling a prescription.”

Seven key takeaways:

1. 58% of patients discontinue GLP-1 use before reaching a clinically meaningful health benefit.

2. 30% of patients discontinued use of weight loss drugs within the first month of treatment.

3. A majority of GLP-1 prescriptions came from a primary care provider. Patients who received a prescription from an endocrinologist or obesity medicine specialist were more likely to stick with treatment.

4. Patients who saw their physician more often, regardless of specialty, were more likely to continue with treatment.

5. Patients aged 18 to 34 were more likely to drop out of treatment sooner.

6. Gender had no effect on dropout rates in the first 12 weeks.

7. Patients with coexisting conditions such as peripheral vascular disease or diabetes, particularly those with three or more similar conditions, were more likely to continue treatment.

DietBusiness Watch/Marketdata Commentary

This survey’s findings don’t surprise us. Weight loss meds are not for everyone, and many have side effects they just don’t want to deal with over a long period of time. Also, many dieters are NOT getting adequate support in the form of coaching and motivation because the physician doesn’t have time to do this or doesn’t have the trained staff to do it. One thing the survey apparently did not cover is the issue of affordability. We assume that many dieters who quit did so due to insurance coverage complications and the high price of the meds.

For More Information About The U.S. Weight Loss Market…

Marketdata LLC has just published a new analysis of the weight loss market: “The U.S. Weight Loss Market: 2024 Status Report & Forecast”, March 2024, 107 Pages.

Some findings:

  • Obesity medications.. This market for prescription drugs in the U.S. more than doubled in 2023, from an estimated $5.1 billion in 2022 to $11.9 billion in 2023 as demand continued to soar for drugs such as Novo Nordisk’s Saxenda, Wegovy and Ozempic, as well as the entry of new drugs such as Mounjaro and Zepbound into the market.
  • Medical weight loss programs and services were estimated to be worth $21.0 billion in 2023. This is the highest share of the market posted since 1989. Medical programs are provided by independent physicians (incl. bariatricians), clinics, hospitals, and medical weight loss franchises.

This new Marketdata report presents a wrap-up of 2023 performance for the U.S. weight loss market during the obesity drugs market explosion and a forecast for 2024. The value of the total market is estimated to have grown to a historic peak of $90 billion in 2023, boosted by soaring sales of the popular prescription GLP-1 weight loss drugs. This is a paradigm shift to medical programs, and a major challenge for competing commercial diet companies, which lost $1 billion in revenues since 2022.

GLP-1 drugs are a game changer in terms of the number of medications now on the market, plus others to come in the next several years. They have affected dieter behavior and how commercial diet companies operate. Nearly all non-medical segments of the market have felt the pain of declining sales, and 26,500 weight loss coaches have lost their jobs. However, more physicians are adding weight loss to their practices, bariatric surgeries are hitting new highs, and caseloads/revenues at medical weight loss franchises and at bariatricians are growing.

The report includes in-depth analyses of: 2020-2023 market/revenue performance, recent competitor and market developments, current dieter trends, diet company advertising spending, and a new analysis of the number and salaries of weight loss coaches in the industry.  Special emphasis and analysis on the obesity drugs market, risks, what could derail the market, and why there is a wild west environment emerging – problems with using cheaper compounded drugs that are not FDA-approved.

Individual Status Reports and the Effects of the obesity drugs boom on operations and revenues, for ALL major weight loss market segments… diet soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, health clubs industry, commercial weight loss chains, retail meal replacements and retail appetite suppressants, medical programs (physicians, hospitals/clinic programs, prescription diet drugs, bariatricians, weight loss surgeries), and low-calorie dinner entrees.

Includes profiles/updated outlooks for: WW, NutriSystem, Jenny Craig, Medifast, Herbalife, Glanbia (Slim-Fast), Noom, Simply Good Foods (Atkins), HMR Boston, Lindora, and Profile by Sanford. Marketdata analysis of company strategy, conference calls.

Order This Report

Go to marketdataenterprises.com, Choose Buy Reports tab on home page for online store, go to page 4 of store listings to find this study, add to basket and pay, checkout. Price: $895. Or, call us at: 813-971-8080 and charge it. Table of Contents available at the Studies page, choose Services tab on home page, then Diet Market – Our Specialty.

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