I am always listening to the news so I can bring you interesting things that are happening in the world of health and wellness. When I heard this piece, I went from a sense of nostalgia, maybe almost to horror within the course of just a couple of different sentences. One of the big stories was about Weight Watchers, and the news was that Weight Watchers has come to the conclusion that they’re going to add medical doctors that members will have access to. Those medical doctors will help to prescribe medications that will potentially help with health.
That sounds great right so far, that doesn’t sound bad at all. I love Weight Watchers. I just had a patient the other day that had lost a bunch of weight by going to Weight Watchers. He’s doing great and looking great. I was complimenting him on his choice because I think Weight Watchers has a fantastic program. But now Weight Watchers is adding these medical doctors and this medical team behind them that you’ll have access to if you join Weight Watchers so that they can prescribe new medications on the market called Ozempic and Wegovy, which are weight loss medications that have been all over the news.
You probably have seen or heard about these medications already, how they went from being Type Two Diabetes medications to now being weight loss medications. Everyone’s always looking for the magic bullet, the secret sauce and the simplest way to get from where they are to where they want to be. And so these drugs are being used by thousands of people to lose weight. I believe Weight Watchers as an organization has kind of jumped on board with this and now they’re moving from giving people diet and exercise programs to lose weight.
I remember Weight Watchers from when I was a kid. I don’t know if it was my mom who used it or if it was somebody in the neighborhood that used it but it was definitely a talking point. And it has been kind of a part of Americana ever since I’ve been alive. Weight Watchers actually started as a support group that meets to talk and help each other lose weight. Then they added a cookbook and recipes and eventually their own low-calorie products. And then in 1998 they launched their Points plan and that’s what most people know as Weight Watchers today. And then in 2019, they’ve grown to 5 million members.
They want everyone to have access to talk about what they’re doing in their challenges and how they’re losing weight using this point system and diet and exercise the right way. But then here recently they have kowtowed to these new weight loss drugs and they’re trying to give their clients access to these drugs.
So let’s talk about these drugs, because I think you need to have an overview of why I’m kind of pissed off. I don’t like that we’ve gone from a common sense diet and exercise and support groups to now just saying, screw it, let’s just give them drugs. So let’s talk about the drugs. There are two different drugs that can be similar in class but very different in how they actually go about it. Ozempic costs about $1,600 per month. Maybe you would pay less using your insurance but $1,600 is what their list price is. It helps your pancreas to produce more insulin, prevents your liver from making too much sugar, and slows down your digestion. So you have food sitting in your stomach longer, and you have lots of more insulin going out and pushing calories into cells. So you’re basically staving off your body’s response to making itself hungry.
Sounds great, right? Aside from the fact that some of the bigger side effects are thyroid cancer and pancreatitis. These are dangerous side effects. We don’t know yet if they’re only common in rats or in humans. The most common side effects with Ozempic are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. So if I had a pill that made you nauseous, made you throw up and gave you diarrhea, you’d probably lose weight, no matter what was in that pill or what the side effects were! That would help you to lose weight right?
Wegovy is similar in that it enhances insulin production, slows digestion and helps to regulate your appetite. That’s what these are doing. They’re making it so that your body doesn’t realize that it’s hungry so that you don’t eat. Wegovy has a $1,000 per month list price. Guess what the three most common side effects are with Wegovy? Did you guess nausea vomiting and diarrhea? Because that’s what they are. There are two different pills with all of these side effects. It’s another effect of the medication. Maybe it’s actually part of what makes the medication effective. It’s hard to separate that out. Especially because in one study, gastrointestinal events, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea happens to almost 83% of participants for all 68 weeks of the study. 83% of people for 68 weeks had nausea,vomiting, and diarrhea. I understand that type two diabetes and obesity in this country are just out of control. I get it. I do.
But there’s got to be a better answer to this, something more like forming support groups and focusing on diet and exercise. So I wouldn’t even care if people were interested in continuing to take these medications and paying $1,600 a month and suffering through their nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If they wanted to do that. I’d be okay with that. But here’s where I get really stuck. Once you stop taking the medication, the weight comes right back. A study followed people who have lost weight and over the subsequent 48 weeks, it came almost all the way back. I think they lost ten percent of their body mass and gained back seven and a half percent of their body mass.
So you have to keep taking this medication that cost $1,600 A month, otherwise you’re getting all the weight back because you didn’t learn how to diet and exercise. You were just taking a pill that made you want to throw up all the time. What are we doing here? I am just lost. I’m so horrified. I hope, like I said at the beginning of this video that the media has sensationalized this and that Weight Watchers doesn’t really want to start patients taking these different medications to lose weight the wrong way. I hope that Weight Watchers is going to stick to their guns, stick to their support group, go back to their point system and their diet and exercise regimes.
Because I think in the past 60 years, Weight Watchers had the right idea. And they were actually trying to make sure that patients learned how to lose weight the right way. Yes, with Ozempic, you’re going to lose weight. But you’re rolling the dice on thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, gallstones, with good chances of getting nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. You lose the weight but at what cost folks? And then you got to pay $1,600 a month forever and ever. It’s just not a good idea. If you have thoughts on this, I want to hear from you. I mean maybe I’m off base and people think that this is a great idea and you know it’s more important to do this than it is to be obese. Maybe this is what we need to do to fight obesity but I just think that Weight Watchers is missing the mark here a little bit. I look forward to hearing what my patients think about all of this, so please do let me know next time you’re in the office!