Costco teams up with Sesame to offer weight loss program to members, including GLP-1 drugs

Big-box retailer Costco is expanding its reach into healthcare services with a new weight loss program for members.

The service is available to Costco members in all 50 U.S. states, and the initial three-month subscription is $179, the companies announced Tuesday.

Costco announced a partnership with healthcare marketplace Sesame last September to offer special discount pricing to its members on outpatient medical care services, including telehealth visits. Through that service, members can book virtual primary care visits for $29 and online mental health therapy visits for $79 through the Sesame marketplace.

As part of the collaboration between Costco and Sesame, Costco members can also access health checkups for $72, which includes a standard lab panel plus a virtual follow-up consultation with a provider.

For Costco members, the weight loss program within the Sesame marketplace includes an initial live video consultation with a clinician and three months of clinical consultation. Members who sign up for the program also can message their clinician outside of scheduled appointments, receive a nutritional guide and recommendations and be guided to an individualized, clinically appropriate treatment program.

Through the program, Sesame clinicians collect a detailed medical history from each patient and help patients with appropriate diet, exercise and lifestyle modifications. When clinically appropriate, clinicians in the program can write prescriptions for weight loss medications, including the GLP-1 class, such as Ozempic, Mounjaro, Wegovy and Zepbound, according to Sesame.

Individual patient eligibility for drug therapies available through Sesame are determined by the assessment of appropriateness of each therapy by the Sesame-listed provider and are subject to availability.

Costco members who receive a weight loss medication prescription may choose to have their scrips filled at the Costco pharmacy.

“We are witnessing important innovations in medically-supervised weight loss,” said David Goldhill, Sesame's co-founder and CEO, in a statement. "Sesame’s unique model allows us not only to make high-quality specialty care like weight loss much more accessible and affordable, but also to empower clinicians to create care plans that are specific to—and appropriate for—each individual patient."

New York City-based Sesame launched in 2019 to connect patients to in-person and virtual care using a direct-pay model. The company built a two-sided marketplace for patients and healthcare providers. As a cash-pay business, Sesame aims to address the healthcare needs of uninsured consumers and those with high-deductible plans.

The Sesame marketplace is composed of primary care doctors and nurse practitioners, more than 40 health specialties, labs and imaging centers, and is inclusive of both virtual and in-person care.

The company says its marketplace gives consumers direct access to more than 10,000 healthcare providers that charge a cash price and do not accept nor require insurance, and more than 100,000 patients have been treated by doctors found through Sesame.

A private-equity-backed company, Sesame has raised $75 million from investors including Google Ventures. The company has reported that patients using its cash-pay healthcare marketplace saved between 20% and 67% on the cost of healthcare services.

There is a steadily growing demand for weight loss medications. Nearly half of people are interested in taking weight loss drugs, a recent KFF Health poll found. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42% of U.S. adults are obese, comprising 108 million Americans.  

Many virtual care companies are adding their names to the growing list of companies providing telehealth weight loss management and access to trendy GLP-1 medications.

Analysts forecast that the obesity drug market will be worth $100 billion by 2030.

Spending on GLP-1 drugs in Medicare Part D skyrocketed over the past several years, according to a new analysis from KFF. The Medicare Part D rogram spent $56.8 million in 2018 on Novo Nordisk's Ozempic, which secured Food and Drug Administration approval in treating diabetes in 2017. By 2019, spending on Ozempic in Part D grew to $552.8 million, according to the analysis. That number continued to steadily rise, reaching $2.6 billion in 2021 and then an eye-popping $4.6 billion by 2022, KFF found.

Costco's move to push deeper into healthcare comes as other retailers also expand their healthcare offerings. Walmart has been building out its network of primary care clinics. 

Amazon bought primary care company One Medical for $3.9 billion while CVS Health acquired Oak Street Health for $10.6 billion. Walgreens-backed VillageMD also bought medical practice Summit Health, the parent company of urgent care clinic chain CityMD, for nearly $9 billion.