GLP-1s — which lower blood sugar to help people lose weight — are taking the healthcare industry by storm and have several implications for digital health companies. This includes headwinds for established nutrition programs and the potential for the launch of new virtual weight loss startups, according to a PitchBook report published Friday.
The PitchBook authors believe that because of the prevalence of obesity in the U.S., the impact of GLP-1s “will extend far beyond the drugmakers themselves.” So far, four GLP-1 agonists have FDA approval: Ozempic, Rybelsus, Wegovy and Mounjaro. Wegovy, however, is the only one indicated for weight loss, while the others are indicated for Type 2 diabetes.
PitchBook listed the potential effect of weight loss drugs on several specific VC-backed digital health companies. For example, Ro and Noom may see new customers through their weight loss telehealth offerings. Form Health could see a rising adoption of their direct-to-consumer weight loss platform and increasing demand in their employer business. Signos, which offers continuous glucose monitors, could see growth due to “growing awareness of weight loss options, but potential loss of share to platforms with drug prescription services.” Alfie, meanwhile, could see higher adoption of their direct-to-consumer weight loss offering and a growing provider partner network.
Here are five ways the digital health industry will change as a result of weight loss drugs, according to PitchBook:
1. Telehealth companies have a “significant opportunity” to shift their focus to weight loss as their main business model or add weight loss telehealth to their current business model. One example PitchBook mentioned is WeightWatchers, which recently acquired the telehealth platform Sequence. WeightWatchers is a wellness company that helps people lose weight through lifestyle support like food and fitness tracking. Sequence gives patients access to virtual appointments with clinicians, dietitian and fitness coaching and prescription medications like GLP-1s. In addition, new weight loss telehealth programs have surfaced from digital health companies like Ro, according to PitchBook.
2. There may be headwinds for existing nutrition programs due to the excitement around weight loss drugs. The authors called out Jenny Craig, which recently declared bankruptcy after an “unsuccessful digital pivot.”
3. Digital health startups racing to serve this market could struggle to stand out from others in the space, PitchBook said.
“As the market gains steam and similar drugs are offered across multiple vendor platforms, startups could face greater competition and higher marketing costs due to a lack of differentiation,” the authors declared.
4. In the long term, health and fitness platforms could see significant growth due to higher use of weight loss drugs. Those who were previously overweight or obese may “become more active and seek out fitness trackers and other consumer health tech platforms,” the authors said. In addition, more fitness activity could also lead to broader adoption of digital musculoskeletal solutions.
5. Down the road, new virtual weight loss startups may surface, PitchBook predicted.
“We see potential for an entirely new ecosystem of digital health startups to take advantage of a growing population of weight loss patients by offering services including telehealth, medication adherence, and prescription management,” the authors said. “To date, only a limited number of weight loss startups have been built from the ground up, and we expect this to change.”
Examples of these startups include Calibrate, Weekend, Vida, Alfie, Form Health and Wondr, PitchBook told MedCity News.
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