The Fierce Healthcare article discusses the outlook for 2024 regarding the use of GLP-1 medications, particularly in the context of weight loss and the sustainability of results after discontinuing the drug. Key points from the article include:
Popularity of GLP-1 Medications: GLP-1 medications, such as Eli Lilly’s Zepbound and Mounjaro (tirzepatide), were a major topic in healthcare in 2023. These drugs have shown significant results in weight loss, with a study in JAMA Network indicating an average 20% mean body weight loss in overweight or obese adults using tirzepatide.
Weight Regain Concerns: A major concern highlighted is the weight regain after patients stop using GLP-1 medications. The JAMA study showed that patients who switched to a placebo regained 14% of their weight, while those who continued tirzepatide lost an additional 5.5%.
Approach to Selling and Usage: Companies are reevaluating their approach to selling GLP-1 medications due to the high costs and the potential for weight regain after discontinuation. Some companies are pitching the idea of using GLP-1s for a limited period (e.g., 12 months), but there is a lack of data supporting this approach, and concerns exist about worse health outcomes.
Long-Term Use and Tapering: The article suggests that some patients might need to stay on GLP-1 medications for life, possibly at a lower dose or with less efficacious medication over time. The idea is to balance the benefits of the drug with the practicalities of long-term use.
Calibrate’s Approach: Telehealth startup Calibrate is exploring whether patients can transition off medication while maintaining their weight loss results. They conducted an analysis showing that 93% of their members sustained greater than 10% weight loss six to 12 months after beginning to taper off GLP-1 drugs.
Medication Alone is Not the Answer: The article emphasizes that medication alone cannot address all aspects of weight loss, particularly when it comes to rewiring the brain’s craving pathways or fixing insulin resistance. A personalized program that includes lifestyle interventions is deemed necessary for the effectiveness of GLP-1 medications.
Future Developments: There is anticipation that the science behind GLP-1 medications will advance in 2024, including the potential introduction of an oral pill version of semaglutide. There is also interest in exploring how GLP-1s can treat other conditions like addiction, liver diseases, and dementia.
Demand for GLP-1 Medications: Despite the challenges, the demand for GLP-1 medications is expected to remain strong throughout 2024, with a focus on ensuring that the right patients receive these medications for the right reasons.
The article highlights the complexities and challenges in the use of GLP-1 medications for weight loss, particularly regarding the sustainability of weight loss after discontinuing the drug and the need for a holistic approach that includes lifestyle changes.