Promising new weight-loss medications can be costly — but so is the impact of obesity on worker health and productivity. The question for employers is whether it makes sense to include such drugs as Ozempic, Wegovy and the newly launched Mounjaro in their health plans.

One thing everyone agrees on is the prevalence of obesity and its impact on health. It is linked to heightened risks for more than 50 health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer, according to a new report from Goodroot. Adult obesity rates have risen from 30.5% of the U.S. population in 2000 to 42% in 2020. The escalating prevalence of obesity and pre-obesity underlines the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address this national health crisis.

Weight-loss drugs, like most pharmaceuticals, come with tradeoffs. On the positive side, clinical trials for Wegovy, a weekly injectable, indicated that patients lost an average of 15% of their body weight over a 68-week period. Studies involving diabetic patients using Rybelsus, the daily oral version of semaglutide, recorded a more modest weight loss of 5% to 7% over one year. However, in the ongoing oral semaglutide trial for weight loss, a considerably higher dosage is being administered. It is anticipated that with this higher dosage, results will align more closely with those reported for injectable versions.

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