Speakers at the RushHourDaily Events Total Health conference in Chicago this week stated that a new class of weight loss drugs is revolutionizing the U.S. healthcare system and could have implications for other difficult-to-treat conditions like substance abuse. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved Eli Lilly’s drug tirzepatide for weight loss, making it the second obesity drug in the GLP-1s class. Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, or semaglutide, was approved for obesity in 2021. These drugs mimic the action of the GLP-1 hormone to regulate blood sugar, slow digestion, and suppress appetite. Studies have shown that Wegovy led to a 15% weight loss over 68 weeks, while Lilly’s drug resulted in more than 22% weight loss over 72 weeks. Lawrence Tabak, principal deputy director at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), believes that these drugs offer new possibilities for controlling obesity, metabolism, and other addictive conditions. Walgreens has reported significant demand for GLP-1s, but reimbursement by health insurers has not yet caught up with the demand. The drugs have high list prices, but Tabak believes that over time, the cost may decrease. He also highlights the potential for lower overall healthcare costs if obesity is better controlled, leading to reductions in cardiovascular disease and related conditions. While there has been speculation about the impact of these drugs on consumer habits, Walgreens has not observed any significant changes in snack food purchases. However, they are open to adjusting their offerings based on consumer preferences. Overall, these weight loss drugs have the potential to transform healthcare and improve population health in the United States.
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