WeightWatchers is getting in the business of dispensing weight-loss drugs.
WW International, commonly known as WeightWatchers, announced yesterday (Mar. 6) it is acquiring digital health startup Sequence, whose corporate name is Weekend Health. The two-year-old subscription telehealth platform, which offers access to health care providers specializing in chronic weight management, will be complemented by WeightWatchers’ existing workout and nutrition programs.
“Clinical interventions require better education, access, care management, community and the integration of a complementary lifestyle program for best results. It is our responsibility, as the trusted leader in weight management, to support those interested in exploring if medications are right for them,” said Sima Sistani, CEO of WeightWatchers.
Sequence members pay for services that include telehealth appointments with doctors who can prescribe weight-loss drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic—originally approved as a diabetes treatment—work by mimicking the naturally-occurring hormone GLP-1 that stimulates insulin production and slows the emptying of the stomach so users feel full for longer.
As the company adds weight-loss prescription drugs to its list of offerings, it can tailor nutrition and behavior programs to each person to get the best results from the medication. For instance, plans for people using weight-loss drugs would include an emphasis on strength training and consuming high-protein foods to preserve muscle mass, according to Gary Foster, WW’s chief scientific officer.
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The transaction, which has some worried about wellness taking a backseat, is expected to close in the second quarter of this year.
WeightWatchers’ Sequence acquisition, by the digits
$106 million: Net price WeightWatchers is paying to buy Sequence
$25 million: Sequence’s annual revenue run-rate business serving
24,000: Sequence members as of this February.
$99: Monthly fees Sequence members pay for services that include telehealth appointments with doctors who can prescribe Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro, and other weight-loss medications
15%: Weekly drop in body weight, on average, after 17 months in people with a body-mass index of 30 or higher who took semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy and Ozempic, according to a 2021 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
$50 billion: Global weight-loss market by 2030
Quotable: WeightWatchers’ weight-loss pivot critics
“Really disappointed by this news. I joined WeightWatchers in January. Their scientific approach to lifestyle changes has been transformative. I’m down 30lbs by changing my habits and relationship with food. I’m sad they’ve joined the quick fix bandwagon.”-Journalist and WW customer Joe Enoch
The problem with using Ozempic for weight loss
Both Wegovy and Ozempic were developed by the same Danish drugmaker, Novo Nordisk, and both help with chronic weight management. However, only Wegovy was created for that purpose.
Semaglutide, also called Ozempic, was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2017, to help people with type 2 diabetes keep blood sugar under control. But once Wegovy stocks ran low and people realized that significant weight loss was a side effect of Ozempic, more people without diabetes started seeking out the drug. A viral TikTok trend touting it as a “wonder” weight loss hack, and much celebrity chatter—for better or for worse—only made Ozempic more sought after among weight loss hopefuls. Then, some digital health companies were blasted for promoting the drugs to those who weren’t even clinically obese.
In the midst of the mania, the people the medicine is originally meant for lost out. Diabetes patients started facing a crunch.
WeightWatchers promises to be more responsible with the dissemination of the drug. Foster said the company has “no interest in prescribing medications to those who are trying to lose 10 pounds for a reunion.”
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