To Ozempic or Not to Ozempic?

by Jeff Weiss

When I got married 30 years ago, I weighed 178 pounds. At the end of last year, I weighed 190 pounds, or 12 pounds above where I was at as a groom. While that weight difference might not be that bad compared to the average, I have also shrunk in height. By many standards, such as for BMI (Body Mass Index), I believe that I am now considered as being obese in which case I am one of the 42 million American adults also identified under this label.

While I didn’t feel bad at 190 pounds, I didn’t feel great either. I felt a little sluggish in general, not moving around the tennis court as quickly as I used to. I didn’t always like looking at myself in the mirror, and my clothes felt a little tighter than they should have been.

We all know that losing weight gets tougher as you get older, and I finally decided that I was going to lose weight and keep it off. On January 1st, I resolved to get back to my wedding day weight by the end of the year. The question was how.

Along with my wife, I have tried many different approaches to losing weight, with some more successful than others, including:

  • Home meal deliveries of health food
  • A bone broth diet
  • A personal chef who cooked us healthy food on a weekly basis
  • Consciously reducing my intake of carbs and cheese
  • A week-long trip to a “wellness” spa where you only drank fluids and had a colonic treatment to start every day (yet another story for a future time). If you’re interested in that kind of stuff, check out We Care Spa.

All of these approaches resulted in me losing pounds, but never reaching my 178-pound objective. And while some of those techniques helped me keep weight off for longer periods (e.g., 3-4 months), summer cocktails along with cravings for high fat items such as wings and ribs, caught up to me.

At my annual physical check-up last month, I tipped the scale at 182 pounds — not my goal but I was very happy with the progress I had made after four months. I can envision myself continuing to slowly lose more weight and hitting my goal by year’s end.  I’ve done it by telling myself that I am going to be a healthy person with regular exercise and a delicious diet of low calorie meals that also happen to be high in protein and fibre, two things you need to consume particularly as you get older.

While this approach is working for me, it may not be the right solution for many other older adults who want to lose weight. And there are many of us. Over half of Active Aging adults are hoping to lose weight based on the results of two surveys (see below) we conducted with our Revolution55 community:

April 2023 May 2024 Change
I am trying to or plan to lose weight within the next 12 months 52% 59% +7
I am not trying to change my weight and have no immediate plans of doing so 46% 37% -9
I am trying to or plan to gain weight within the next 12 months 2% 4% +2

The most recent survey found almost 6 out of 10 older adults are trying to or plan to lose weight within the next 12 months, up 7 percentage points compared to last year. While we didn’t probe the reasons for this increase, it may be tied to a greater number of older adults who are realizing the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.

What we found most interesting is the change in attitudes towards the use of prescription drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy to lose weight. The percentage of older adults who would never consider using drugs to lose weight decreased from 78.4% to 67.4% in the past year, a significant decline in negative perceptions around this option.

Prescription Drugs such as Ozempic or Wegovy April 2023 May 2024 Change
Might Use in the Future 15.4% 21.6% +6.2
Do, Have or Might Use 21.6% 32.6% +11
Would Never Use 78.4% 67.4% -11

Consideration for use of one of the weight-loss drugs rose over six percentage points  compared to 2023, signifying a more positive perception as older adults consider different approaches to losing weight.

What is driving the change in perception around weight-loss drugs among older adults? And what are the implications to other brands and organizations targeting and marketing to older adults?

One obvious consideration is the significant brand awareness that has been generated, particularly by Novo Nordisk in support of Ozempic. The company has spent millions of dollars promoting the drug through traditional and digital marketing efforts. It is difficult not to be aware of the brand and its reported “positive” impact on weight loss. Awareness can equal credibility, which is likely the case with Ozempic.

Another likely factor is the spread of positive stories in the media as well as tales of great weight loss from friends or family members who have used it. While Ozempic was originally developed to treat Type 2 diabetes, researchers discovered by accident that it naturally elicited weight loss.  This led to it being seen as a miracle drug that answers the weight loss challenge millions are dealing with. Sure there are some potential negative side effects, as there are with so many drugs, but the ability to lose weight in a relatively painless way has become very alluring to so many people.

The third thing that has likely helped move the needle is the positive endorsement these drugs have received from the medical community. Another recent poll we conducted with our Revolution55 community (in May, 2024) showed that over half (54%) of adults 55+ believe that doctors tend to prescribe medications too frequently as a first-line treatment option without exploring alternatives. This may be the case with many physicians recommending Ozempic versus other alternatives particularly when asked about its effectiveness by patients (based on what they are seeing and hearing).

The learning for other marketers is that finding the solution to an important, and in this case large (no pun intended), need such as weight loss can strike a chord with older adults who may have tried other alternatives without success. They may have reached a level of frustration, or desperation, that has made new (or more radical) options more attractive. While there may be potential negative side effects to this option hope and what seems to be a guaranteed solution are outweighing the risks (again no pun intended) of using these prescription drugs.

If you are interested in finding solutions to the unmet needs of older adults in other areas, reach out to me and we can chat.

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