Issue No. 236: Weighing In

Illustration: Courtney Powell

The obesity drug boom has only just begun.

Keeping Pace

As the debate over weight loss injections intensifies, digital health startups and pharmaceutical companies are racing to meet demand.

  • 60% of US adults with obesity who are familiar with GLP-1s like Ozempic are “interested” in trying the treatment.
  • From 2019–2022, prescriptions for GLP-1s increased by 2,082%, gaining 259% between 2021–2022 alone, per Komodo Health.
  • According to Barclays, the obesity therapeutic market could top $200B globally by 2030, 200% greater than Morgan Stanley’s August 2022 estimate.

No match for a quick-fix miracle cure, diet and behavior change platforms are being forced to adapt.

Pivot to Prescriptions

Last week, Noom launched Noom Med, a new program for prescribing obesity drugs.

By pairing its weight management app with pharmaceuticals, the company hopes to capitalize on a burgeoning industry while overhauling its business model.

  • 2021: Noom secured a $540M investment; valued north of $4B, the company hired bankers to explore a $10B IPO.
  • 2022: Shifting its strategy, Noom laid off hundreds of health coaches and was reportedly seeking to replace CEO Saeju Jeong.
  • 2023: After starting the year with more layoffs, the company hired Dr. Linda Anegawa as its first-ever medical director to oversee Noom Med.

With 50M+ downloads and “millions” of users paying $70 per month for its weight loss subscription, the company is adding the $120 per month Noom Med membership.

Available based on BMI and medical history, the price includes app access… but not the cost of medication.

One more thing… Novo Nordisk, makers of the FDA-approved anti-obesity shot Wegovy, is an investor in Noom. So, don’t be surprised if the company offers more prescriptions for chronic conditions.

Arms Race

Noom’s foray into obesity meds follows a long and fast-growing list of recent developments.

The first domino to fall among “diet” brands, WeightWatchers acquired Ozempic-equipped telehealth platform Sequence for $106M in March.

A sign of what’s to come, as weight loss companies choose between drugs, lifestyle change, or some combination of both, digital health startups are mulling similar questions.

  • January: Ro debuted GLP-1 treatments via its Body Program, and knownwell raised $4.5M for its obesity care platform.
  • March: Expanding beyond at-home lab tests, Everly Health began offering prescription shots.
  • April: Teladoc rolled out provider-based care for weight management and prediabetes programs.

Adding to the flurry of activity, last week, Omada Health announced behavior change programs to accompany GLP-1s, but CEO Sean Duffy said they won’t be writing the script.

And hims CEO Andrew Dudum recently told Modern Healthcare that, while the company plans to tackle metabolic health, questions about long-term usage and insurance coverage have given him pause over GLP-1s, for now.

Looking Ahead

Echoing Dudum’s view, a chorus of concerns is growing louder, especially as it relates to accessing obesity drugs, potential side effects, and who pays for the treatments.

At the going rate, injections can cost upwards of $15K per year for life. While drug makers work on more convenient weight loss pills (to replace shots), Dr. Daniel Drucker, a co-discoverer of the GLP-1 hormone, doesn’t expect prices to recede:

“When [pharma companies] run the models, they make more money selling fewer units for higher costs.”

Meanwhile, digital health companies and lobbyists are calling on employers, insurers, and Congress to foot the bill.

Just the beginning, as the obesity epidemic worsens, prescription meds can play a vital role in curbing the crisis. But, as the FDA label states, they’re meant to be a complement to diet and exercise. And cracking the code on implementing the latter will prove to be more complicated than writing the script.

🎙 On the Podcast

OK Capsule co-founder & CEO Dr. Andrew Brandeis discusses the company’s B2B platform for personalized supplements.

We also cover: differentiating through convenience and design. Plus, AI’s role in the future of well-being.

Listen to today’s episode here

🚀 obé Fitness launches personalized workouts

Evolving beyond on-demand content, the digital fitness company is pushing into personalized programming.

For you. Assessing time constraints, preexisting injuries, and desired goals of individual members, as well as synced wearable data (including cycle tracking), obé will curate a plan of action every two weeks.

Speaking to WWDco-CEO Ashley Mills said obé is taking the guesswork out of workouts:

“…we need to make sure that we’re serving the exact right modalities at the exact right time depending on who you are, where you are, and how you want to move.”

Expanding its content to include holistic wellness, the brand is also rolling out new offerings across strength, meditation, sleep, mobility training, and more.

One of one. Mirrored by surging demand for personal training, structure-seeking exercisers want to know they’re on the right track—every step of the way—to hit their goals in strengthwell-being, and more.

Taking notice, wearable makers and content producers are leveraging their respective insights to deliver data-informed workouts.

Enhancing its ecosystem, Apple’s Fitness+ workouts harness smartwatch and HealthKit data. And WHOOP’s new strength training feature recommends workouts from athletes like Patrick Mahomes.

Elsewhere, after relaunching its app, look for Peloton to focus on tailored programming — or as CEO Barry McCarthy put it last fall:

“From a content experience, the most revolutionary thing we’ll do in the next 12 months will be on the personalization side.”

Punchline: Inundated with content and subscriptions, exercisers are tired of searching for the perfect workout. Instead, lacking time and motivation, they want digital fitness tools to be much more prescriptive — signaling the future of outcome-driven personalized programming.

🤝 InsideTracker, Oura sync for health optimization

Teaming up, the wellness platform will leverage smart ring-derived data to enhance real-time health coaching.

More specifically, the partnership is designed to enhance recovery and healthspan by combining Oura’s sleep insights with blood and DNA analysis to better personalize lifestyle recommendations.

Integrated healthtech. While some companies construct walled gardens, others see strategic partnerships as a lever for growth.

For its part, InsideTracker adds Oura to a list of hardware integrations that include Fitbit, Garmin, and Apple Watch.

Meanwhile, Oura has been busy racking up new partnerships:

  • July 2022: The smart ring maker synced up with Strava on data sharing, including pairing readiness and activity scores with logged activities.
  • August 2022: Oura aligned with cycle tracking platform Natural Cycles to enhance its birth control and period prediction functions.
  • October 2022: Oura partnered with Therabody, sharing products, content, and data between the two wellness ecosystems.

Elsewhere… the company also debuted a B2B offering, and it just linked with John Hancock’s Vitality life insurance program, adding to collabs with Gucci and Equinox.

Takeaway: While too much health tracking can be detrimental, as consumers take an active role in managing their well-being, they want more control over personal data, meaning companies will need to work together to enable holistic care.

📰 News & Notes

  • European gyms near complete pandemic recovery.
  • GNC pilots drone delivery for wellness supplements.
  • lululemon invests in sustainability with products, partnerships.
  • Fitt Jobs: Find your dream career in the health & fitness industry.
  • Startup Q&A: HIGHLANDER CEO Jurica Barac on hiking for health.
  • Samsung Display unveils fingerprint biometric sensors for smart screens.
  • Mushroom coffee brand Four Sigmatic doubles down on mental wellness.
  • Alo Yoga enters lifestyle footwear; lululemon debuts women’s ultramarathon shoe.
  • Plantiga launches next-gen performance-tracking insoles. [Q&A: Plantiga’s Quin Sandler]

💰 Money Moves

  • TMRW Sports, a tech-enabled sports venture from Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, raised undisclosed funding from entertainers DJ KhaledJustin Bieber, and others.
  • B2B food-as-medicine marketplace bitewell closed a $4M seed round.
    More from Fitt Insider: Food as Medicine
  • Outdoors outfitter Passenger raised £15M ($18.6M) in funding from investment firm Growth Partner.
  • AI fitness tracking platform Train Fitness secured $2.5M in a seed round.
  • Tech-enabled IVF and fertility treatment platform Mate Fertility closed a $5.2M Series A round.
  • Carmot Therapeutics, developer of GLP-1 therapeutics for obesity and diabetes, landed $150M in Series E funding.
  • Cold-pressed juice and functional beverage maker Daily Dose secured £5M ($6.2M) from IW Capital.
  • SM&E Holdings acquired a stake in Squash Media & Marketing, the commercial entity for the Professional Squash Association, to scale the national PSA Tour.
  • Florence, a clinical healthtech company, acquired Zipnosis, makers of a white-labeled virtual care solution.
  • AI telewellness platform Suggestic acquired Wishroute, a lifestyle coaching and habit-formation platform.
  • Irish healthcare technology firm Medtronic acquired EOFlow, a South Korean manufacturer of insulin delivery systems.
  • Digital healthcare company WELL Health Technologies Corpacquired five Calgary-area primary clinics from MCI Onehealth.
  • Lolë, a Canadian activewear and technical outerwear company, acquired époque évolution, a fashion-forward athleisure brand.
  • UK-based vegan restaurant chain Neat Burger raised $18M in a Series B round and will expand to the US.
  • Polaris Genomics, a precision mental healthcare startup, raised $1M in debt from an undisclosed source.

Today’s newsletter was brought to you by Anthony Vennare, Joe Vennare, and Ryan Deer. 

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