Skip to Main Content

» The Trending Weight Loss Drugs

July 11, 2023

Employee Benefits, Healthcare, Healthcare Spending, Human Resources, Prescription Drugs

It seems like in every circle people are discussing the new weight loss drugs. At the Academy Awards Jimmy Kimmel cracked a joke during his opening monologue.

“Everybody looks so great,” Kimmel said. “When I look around this room, I can’t help but wonder ‘Is Ozempic right for me?’”

So, what are these popular & expensive drugs?

Ozempic and Wegovy are two weight loss medications that have gained popularity in recent years. Here’s some information about each of them:

  • Ozempic (semaglutide): Ozempic is a medication initially developed to treat type 2 diabetes. However, it has also been approved for use as a weight loss drug. It belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists, which work by mimicking a hormone in the body that regulates appetite and blood sugar levels. Ozempic helps reduce appetite and increase feelings of fullness. It is typically injected once a week.
  • Wegovy (semaglutide): Wegovy is a higher-dose formulation of semaglutide, the same active ingredient found in Ozempic. It was specifically developed as a weight loss drug and has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for chronic weight management in adults with obesity. Like Ozempic, Wegovy is also a GLP-1 receptor agonist that reduces appetite and increases feelings of fullness. It is usually injected once a week.

Why do you want to be cautious when using Wegovy or Ozempic?

  1. Side Effects: These medications can have potential side effects that should be monitored. Common side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and decreased appetite. Additionally, rare but serious side effects may occur, such as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and gallbladder problems. It is crucial to be aware of these potential side effects and promptly report any concerning symptoms to a healthcare professional.
  2. If you lose weight with new drugs, you likely will need to keep taking the medications forever to keep the weight off. People who stop taking Wegovy and Ozempic often gain weight back relatively quickly.
  3. The drugs are expensive, and in general, insurance plans don’t cover them for weight loss (although they often do for people with diabetes).
  4. Some people have complained about looking older due to “Wegovy or Ozempic face.” While many people taking weight loss drugs are pleased to shed some pounds, some say they’re dropping weight in the wrong place: their face. Some have complained of looking old and gaunt due to fat loss in the face.

While there are reasons to be cautious about the newest drugs, Ozempic and Wegovy are helping many people lose considerable weight — about 12% of body mass, on average — which can dramatically improve a person’s health.

How does this impact employers?

A new report shows that currently 43% of employers cover the weight loss drugs for those with diabetes or those at risk. On top of that, 28% of employers are considering adding it to their benefit package for the above reason. However, the most argumentative portion of the drug is providing coverage on it to those who are obese. Employers are divided on whether it’s a lifestyle condition and it shouldn’t be covered, or a chronic condition and it should be covered. The reasoning stems from the American Medical Association identifying obesity as a disease in 2013.

Some other reasons employers are hesitant on providing coverage is because it is extremely expensive, concerns of no long term weight loss, and the drugs would not be taken for an indefinite duration.

If you cover or are looking at covering the above drugs, I have a few recommendations:

  1. First, require the employees to participate in a lifestyle modification program.
  2. Measure the outcomes of the drugs.

Overall, these drugs are not going away anytime soon so it is important to understand the full scope of them.

Posted by in Employee Benefits, Healthcare, Healthcare Spending, Human Resources, Prescription Drugs