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WeightWatchers Buys Telehealth Startup to Prescribe Ozempic

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WeightWatchers, a points-counting weight loss program (official name is WW International) that’s been around since the 1960s, is getting into the telehealth game with a $106 million purchase of company Sequence, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Sequence, a company that was created in 2021, specializes in telehealth programs for patients who want to lose weight and access relevant drugs like Wegovy, Ozempic, or Mounjaro, according to its website. As of February, it has 24,000 members, the WSJ noted.

WeightWatchers CEO Sima Sistani told the outlet that drugs like Ozempic are “the biggest innovation in our industry today.”

Ozempic is FDA-approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. It and other chemically similar drugs, like Wegovy have been credited with helping users lose massive amounts of weight. Still, it is not without its controversies — critics say it sets back body positivity movements and that its growing popularity has led to a shortage for those who need it to manage their disease, per NBC News.

Related: Doctors Are Promoting Weight Loss Drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy on Tiktok

These drugs work by stimulating the body to produce insulin when blood sugar goes up, helping your liver release less sugar, and reducing the rate at which food leaves the stomach, lowering overall blood sugar, Novo Nordisk’s page for Ozempic says. Only Wegovy is Food and Drug Administration-approved (FDA) for weight management. Ozempic is prescribed for weight management “off-label,” which is acceptable under FDA rules.

Wegovy is slated to be used as an “adjunct to a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity for chronic weight management,” according to maker Novo Nordisk. But a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2021, found that people on Wegovy who went off of it after 20 weeks “gradually regained weight.”

An initial consultation with Sequence goes for $49, and then it costs $99 a month for its services, including helping people get drugs like Wegovy covered by insurance, visits from a doctor who could prescribe the drug, and a fitness coach and dietitian, per its site.

Ozempic’s list price is over $800.

“There’s real excitement for the health outcomes of these medications,” Sistani told the WSJ.

Dr. Gary Foster, chief science officer at WeightWatchers, said the telehealth component will be used alongside the company’s existing programs.

“We have no interest in prescribing medications to those who are trying to lose 10 pounds for a reunion,” Foster told WSJ.

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