Weight Watchers Will Soon Offer Ozempic—Has It "Given Up on Dieting"?
The company is acquiring a telehealth platform where doctors can prescribe medication.
For decades, WW International Inc., more commonly known as Weight Watchers, has offered solutions for people looking to manage their weight, using a point system to track food consumption. But now, the company has announced it will soon give members access to medication as another option for weight loss. According to a March 6 press release, the company is buying telehealth platform Sequence for $106 million, enabling Weight Watchers members to meet with doctors who can prescribe drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic.
Some are questioning this move—and wondering whether Weight Watchers is abandoning its longstanding focus on diet and exercise as effective approaches for weight loss. Read on to find out what the company had to say about its new initiative, and how customers are responding.
There's been much debate about the use of Ozempic for weight loss.
Both Ozempic and Wegovy (the brand names for semaglutide) have stirred up controversy lately, as celebrities and A-listers have touted how effective the injectable drugs are for weight loss, per The Wall Street Journal. However, Ozempic isn't approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss or even obesity—just for treating diabetes. Wegovy, on the other hand, is approved for obesity treatment, but patients are required to have another medical condition associated with their weight in order to qualify.
Still, this hasn't stopped healthcare professionals from prescribing drugs like Ozempic for off-label use, with critics expressing concerns about potential side effects, safety, and abuse by people with eating disorders, Forbes reported. With that in mind, some are wary of Weight Watchers' decision to introduce these medications as a treatment option for weight loss.
Critics say the medications are a "quick fix."
As the deal with Sequence is expected to close in June, per Forbes, many are questioning how the platform fits into Weight Watchers' business model. "Did Weight Watchers @ww_us just give up on dieting? #ozempic #diet," one user tweeted after the news broke.
Another wrote, "Weight Watchers announced today that they will be rolling out a clinical weight management program to offer diet pills, a 'pharma solution' to weight loss. So, about that support group Wellness model they've been selling?"
Journalist Joe Enoch also chimed in, citing his own experience with the program. "Really disappointed by this news. I joined @ww_us in January. Their scientific approach to lifestyle changes has been transformative," he wrote. "I'm down 30lbs by changing my habits and relationship with food. I'm sad they've joined the quick fix bandwagon."
Back in 2018, Weight Watchers moved away from using the word "diet," pivoting to overall "wellness" instead. Membership decreased as a result, The Wall Street Journal reported, but with Weight Watchers CEO Sima Sistani at the helm, the focus has shifted back to weight loss.
"We started re-embracing WeightWatchers because I think it's important to not shy away from the conversation around weight loss being important for health outcomes," Sistani told the outlet.
Weight Watchers says medication will supplement diet and exercise.
As far as the introduction of medication for weight loss, Weight Watchers says the initiative is a step forward, and these drugs won't be available to those looking for a quick fix. "We have no interest in prescribing medications to those who are trying to lose 10 pounds for a reunion," Gary Foster, PhD, Weight Watchers' chief scientific officer, told The Wall Street Journal.
In addition, the company says that they haven't moved away from diet and exercise, and that medication will supplement lifestyle modifications.
"As we build out our clinical weight management pathway, we will be learning and likely tailoring our nutrition program for this distinct member journey," Foster said in the press release. "We know weight management isn't one-size-fits-all and clinical interventions are not medically or otherwise appropriate for everyone, which is why we remain committed to all pathways."
The Wall Street Journal also reported that the subscription-based Sequence charges $99 a month for services, which include a weight-loss tracking app and appointments with dietitians and fitness coaches. Best Life reached out to Weight Watchers for comment, but has yet to hear back.
Some are in support of the new initiative, but others worry about ongoing shortages.
The Ozempic debate is multifaceted: Many worry about safety, while others argue that the drugs are effective. "Weight Watchers joins the bandwagon," a March 7 tweet reads. "The future of weight loss is in injection of '…tide' medications such as semaglutide (Ozempic) or tirzepatide (Mounjaro). Unfortunate, but true."
Yoni Freedhoff, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa and co-founder of the Bariatric Medical Institute, had similar thoughts in response to the news.
"We finally have well tolerated medications that deliver durable, clinically meaningful losses," he tweeted on March 6. "Given our healthcare system's lack of obesity medicine training—and with time and more therapeutic options available this will no doubt change—this is needed and welcome news."
However, concerns still exist about how shortages will affect diabetes patients—and how Weight Watchers, specifically, will impact accessibility.
"Huge shortages of ozempic and type 2 diabetics couldn't get it. Hope they speed up production if weight watchers is going to be adding meds to their protocol. Worried about diabetics not getting their medications," a tweet reads.
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.