AP – WeightWatchers’ stock soared on Tuesday after the company said it is getting into the prescription drug weight loss business with the acquisition of Sequence.
Sequence is a telehealth provider that offers users access to drugs used to treat diabetes and obesity under the brand names including Ozempic, Wegovy and Trulicity. The drugs all work by the same mechanism: They trigger the release of insulin, block sugar production in the liver and suppress appetite.
WeightWatchers offers subscribers meal plans with the goal of losing excess weight. With the acquisition of Sequence, it is tapping into a red-hot market for prescription drugs that address obesity, and broadening what it offers to customers. Shares of WW International Inc closed on Tuesday up 79 per cent.
“It is our responsibility, as the trusted leader in weight management, to support those interested in exploring if medications are right for them,” said Chief Executive Officer Sima Sistani said in a prepared statement late on Monday.
Ozempic and Wegovy are different versions of the same drug, known as semaglutide.
They’re both given as once-weekly injections. Ozempic is approved only to treat diabetes, although it has been increasingly prescribed for off-label use. Wegovy was approved in 2021 to treat obesity in adults, and late last year to treat the condition in adolescents 12 and older. In a clinical trial, adults who used Wegovy lost about 15 per cent of their initial body weight, while teens lost slightly more. For best results, the drugs should be combined with diet and exercise, experts say. Trulicity is a different drug, dulaglutide, used to treat diabetes in adults and children aged 10 and older. It’s not approved to treat obesity.
The off-label use of semaglutide, spurred by social media posts, led to a shortage of the drug for most of last year.
Novo Nordisk said supplies are being replenished, but many diabetes patients still report trouble accessing the drugs they need.