02:37 - Source: CNN
'We got it wrong': WeightWatchers CEO on weight loss
New York CNN  — 

WeightWatchers is accelerating its pivot away from a diet culture brand and into a company catering to people taking Ozempic.

WeightWatchers on Thursday launched a new membership plan for members taking GLP-1 prescriptions drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy sometimes used for weight loss. The “WeightWatchers GLP-1 Program” will give WeightWatchers members on semaglutide medications access to doctors who can prescribe these medications, as well as daily nutrition plans, insurance coordination, and other weight loss support programs.

The company has started advertising the clinic on its website. The support program is included in the company’s $23 monthly membership. For additional access to clinicians who can prescribe weight loss medications, members will pay a $99 monthly fee – excluding the price of the medication. Customers can also receive a prescription from their primary care physician if they prefer.

Semaglutide was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat type 2 diabetes as Ozempic, but it was also used off-label for weight loss. Wegovy, the version that treats weight loss, was approved in 2021. They work by mimicking a hormone that makes users feel full, but their use carries potential side effects like gastrointestinal discomfort. Long-term risks also remain under study. These medications are not stand-alone solutions and require a comprehensive approach to diet and exercise for sustained weight control.

WeightWatchers has seen that “people taking GLP-1 medications need help with a different set of behavioral challenges in comparison to people not on these medications,” Gary Foster, WeightWatchers’ chief scientific officer, said in a news release.

Diet drugs have upended the weight loss business, forcing companies like WeightWatchers to adapt. The launch of the new program is the latest step in WeightWatchers’ growing embrace of semaglutide medications.

In March, WeightWatchers made a $100 million-plus deal to buy Sequence, a telehealth business that offers virtual prescriptions to patients for these weight loss drugs where appropriate.

Goldman Sachs analysts say that buying Sequence and embracing semaglutides is keeping the weight loss company from collapse –- like Jenny Craig, which shut down earlier this year.

Analysts at the bank project that 15 million adults in the US will be on these medications by 2031, or about 13% of all adults in the country –- not including diabetic patients.

The analysts say these changes could generate $455 million in new revenue for WeightWatchers by 2025.

Oprah Winfrey, a board member and shareholder of WeightWatchers, said in an interview published Wednesday that she is taking weight-loss medication as a “maintenance tool.”

CNN’s Nicole Goodkind contributed to this article.