Demand for GLP-1s growing faster than expected

43% of health plan leaders are predicting 100% or more growth in GLP-1s for weight loss and obesity at their organizations in 2024, according to a newly released survey from Virta Health. 

This survey captures the latest sentiment and trends on GLP-1s from 60 Chief Medical Officers, Chief Pharmacy Officers and actuarial leaders from major national and regional insurers.1


More than half of execs say GLP-1s will be a top 3 drug class in 2024

Media coverage has portrayed GLP-1s as a miracle-drug, poised to finally solve the twin crises of diabetes and obesity. Reporting on the drugs also emphasizes their potential to treat a multitude of chronic conditions—from mental health and alcohol use disorder to PCOS and even kidney disease.2

As indications for these drugs grow, so do sales and consumer demand, worrying executives about how often these drugs are prescribed.

More than half say GLP-1s will be a top 3 drug spend in 2024. And for one fifth of executives, GLP-1s will be their most expensive drug class this year, a far cry from 2020 when the medications largely fell towards the bottom of drug spend reports.

The survey also found:

  1. Diabetes and obesity remain the #1 and #2 concerns of health plan leaders in 2024, even over cancer, cardiovascular, MSK and mental health. Rising prevalence, pharmacy costs, emergency department visits and medical spend factor into these concerns.
  2. 65% believe lifestyle programs should be used as a first line therapy for obesity, prior to prescribing a GLP-1. In fact, 72% believe GLP-1s are used more than they should be for obesity and type 2 diabetes, showing that execs believe GLP-1s are not the “wonder drug” they are portrayed to be.
  3. Leaders are turning to lifestyle programs to manage rising healthcare and Rx costs. 68% of survey respondents are already invested in lifestyle programs or are increasing their investments to improve clinical outcomes and satisfy member choice while driving safe, sustainable behavior change.
  4. Majority of executives believe the media is misrepresenting GLP-1s. Specifically, they believe that traditional media coverage is both misleading and over-represents the effectiveness of the drugs. Unreasonable expectations of the drugs, the risk of negative side effects, and widely varying individual success were the aspects of GLP-1 usage they believe are not clearly represented.

Virta publishes first-of-its-kind study showing sustainable weight loss after GLP-1s

A first of its kind research study from Virta, just published in Diabetes Therapy, shows sustained weight loss and A1c improvements after deprescribing GLP-1s among a real world population.

In the study, Virta found that patients maintained the beneficial effects on weight loss and blood sugar, even when GLP-1s are removed, making continued use unnecessary for many people.

The outcomes stand in stark contrast to other studies on GLP-1 weight loss treatments where discontinuing the medications has been shown to lead to rapid worsening of blood sugar and weight regain—even when accompanied by physical activity and calorie restriction.

Virta found that following deprescription, weight did not significantly increase at 6 or 12 months post deprescription, compared to many well-known drug trials (in red) where patients regain up to two thirds of weight loss after discontinuing the drug.

Virta Health

Wilding JPH, et al. N Engl J Med. 2021 Mar 18;384(11):989-1002. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2032183.Note: Participants in the STEP-1 trial were patients with obesity. Patients included in Virta’s cohort are patients with type 2 diabetes.Pi-Sunyer X, et al. N Engl J Med 2015; 373:11-22. dOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1411892Kubota M, et al. Cureus 2023; 15(10): 446490. doi:10.7759/cureus.46490

Virta study is notable for health plan and benefits leaders

For plan sponsors seeking cost effective and sustainable alternatives to contain spiraling GLP-1 costs—Virta’s new research is game changing. It demonstrates that Virta effectively and safely deprescribes GLP-1s.

These findings show the company’s approach to personalized nutrition therapy serves as both a powerful alternative to and off-ramp from GLP-1s, helping health plans and employers contain costs while supporting member choice.

Additional Resources

Click here to get the full survey report.

Click here to read Virta’s new GLP-1 desprescription research paper.

Click here to learn more about Virta’s sustainable weight loss solution, a cost effective alternative or offramp to GLP-1s.


1 Virta Health, How Health Plan Leaders Are Handling the GLP-1 Cost Crisis, July 2023. The 2024 update survey captures responses from 60 of the original 80 participants.

2 New York Times, “What’s Next for Ozempic?,” December 2023.

The editorial staff had no role in this post's creation.