Digital health company Hims & Hers launched its much-anticipated weight loss program this week that includes digital tracking tools, educational content and access to medications.
The new offering, however, does not include prescriptions for the buzzy new weight loss medications known as GLP-1s, at least for now.
"It is definitely on our radar to bring in when we can control the price and control the supply chain," Craig Primack, M.D. Hims & Hers' new senior vice president of weight management, said in an interview.
As part of its virtual weight management program, Hims & Hers will offer consumers access to a combination of medications with active ingredients that help to suppress appetite and curb cravings, including Bupropion, Metformin, Naltrexone and Topiramate with Vitamin B12, the company said in a press release.
Hims & Hers is a multispecialty telehealth platform that connects consumers to medical care for numerous conditions related to mental health, sexual health, dermatology and primary care. The company expanded into heart health in August and now weight management.
Primack, an obesity medicine physician who joined the company in August, worked with a team of clinical experts in obesity medicine, psychology and nutrition to design the Weight Loss by Hims & Hers program. The service was developed to be a more affordable approach to reducing weight by addressing the underlying factors that affect people’s weight: nutrition, behavior, movement and medical treatment, according to executives.
"Weight loss really comes down to four pieces: you need a nutrition plan, you need some kind of activity, you need education and learnings. And then the fourth is medications. When you put more and more pieces together, that's where it becomes a solid, comprehensive program," Primack said. The weight management program incorporates a diet based on protein intake and avoiding highly processed foods, he noted.
Consumers paying for the weight management offering will have access to curated educational content through the Hims & Hers app, including nutrition guidance, recipes, mental health support, movement recommendations and sleep advice. That content is personalized based on customers’ lifestyle and appetite profile.
The program also leverages digital tracking tools to monitor activity levels and movement, food intake, hydration and sleep.
Each individual treatment plan is personalized by licensed healthcare providers on the Hims & Hers platform based on a person’s body, health history and overall health and wellness goals. The holistic approach allows providers on the platform to combine customized medication management with ongoing clinical support, according to the company.
"We're putting together a personalized approach using our pharmacy technologies to give people different options. In the clinical world of obesity medicine, we've been using four or five medicines continuously for years and combining them together. Each of them alone are not that most robust, but when you put several of them together, we get very strong results," Primack said.
In the past year, many telehealth and digital health companies, including Hims & Hers competitor Ro, have jumped into the market, offering prescriptions for GLP-1s as part of an existing weight loss or chronic condition management program, or creating a new service line targeting obesity care.
Hims & Hers has been slower to enter the weight management space compared to its peers. Back in August, Andrew Dudum, CEO and co-founder of Hims & Hers, said during the company's second-quarter earnings call that the company was working on a weight loss solution and planned to launch it by the end of the year.
The price tag on weight loss drugs like Wegovy, which can cost more than $1,000 a month per person without insurance, is a challenge for a cash-pay business like Hims & Hers, Patrick Carroll, M.D., Hims & Hers chief medical officer told Fierce Healthcare.
"There are two problems with GLP-1s. One, the cost is astronomical. It depends on what part of the country you live in and the employer mix, but I'm in Arizona and less than 10% of people have coverage for these and they end up being between $900 and $1,300 a month if you have to buy them," Primark said.
There also continues to be supply constraints due to the global boom in obesity treatments.
"We want to be able to offer people an affordable program that they can sustain. This is not a short-term solution. Usually, this is a chronic long-term problem that people have to treat. If it's not affordable, or they can't do it, they're not going to sustain it," he said.
"Our program uniquely uses a combination of customizable medications and supportive content, unlocking access to weight loss treatment for a fraction of the price—all with support from medical providers who understand the nuance of weight gain and weight loss," he added.
Obesity is one of the most common chronic health issues in the U.S. and can lead to or exacerbate many other significant physical and mental health challenges, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 42% of American adults are considered to have obesity with an additional 31% considered overweight.
“Weight Loss by Hims & Hers is designed to uniquely fit each customer’s biology. Our program doesn’t rely on fad diets or magic fixes, but is built for people to get the results they want without gambling with their health,” said Andrew Dudum, CEO and co-founder of Hims & Hers, in a statement.
Primack founded and launched the Scottsdale Weight Loss Center 17 years ago and then served as president of the Obesity Medicine Association.
He was interested in jumping on board at Hims & Hers as the virtual platform can help scale up obesity care to a larger population.
"Working in my own clinic, I can see about 30 patients a day. That's the limit of my touch. By using a platform like Hims, we can reach so many more people who aren't currently getting obesity care," he noted.
The conversation around obesity is changing as more people recognize it as a chronic health issue, he noted.
"People used to just say, 'Eat less and move more.' If that worked, we wouldn't be where we are today," he said. In 2013, the American Medical Association recognized obesity as a complex, chronic disease that requires medical attention. Next-generation medications developed in the past decade also have helped to move the needle as well.
"We're going to have to do some activity and we're going to have to change our diets but let's also use medicines that turn off the appetite so that when we try to do that, it actually works," he said. "There is so much bias and stigma in the world of obesity, from people themselves, from their families, from their friends, and even from the medical community. Offering a telemedicine-based program makes it a lot easier for many people to have conversations about their weight."