For Organizations, Health Plans, and Consultants

What you need to know about GLP-1s, weight loss, and how Virgin Pulse can help

Obesity affects almost 40% of Americans, and as a result, employers and health plans are receiving more requests for comprehensive obesity care benefits, such as coverage for GLP-1 medications. Virgin Pulse is assisting clients and potential customers in devising a plan for long-term weight loss that reduces the likelihood of chronic diseases by using cost-effective behavior change prevention and digital therapeutic programs.

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What you need to know about GLP-1s and how Virgin Pulse supports your entire population

“The high interest in GLP-1 medications for weight loss proves that there is a real consumer demand for solutions to chronic issues, but medications are not always the right fit and can be expensive. Forming healthy habits alongside – or instead of – these medications is key to long-term success,” said Jeffrey Jacques, MD, chief medical officer for Virgin Pulse. “Providing employees with a structured, habit-building program will reduce the need for expensive treatments and hospitalizations and enhance workforce productivity and loyalty. VP Transform is delivered in phases to promote self-efficacy with more personalized support than other programs, ensuring meaningful engagement and outcomes. You can’t go it alone, and with VP Transform, you don’t have to.”

Q: What challenges come with using GLP-1 medications like Ozempic and Wegovy?

A: While GLP-1 medications like Ozempic and Wegovy have been making an impact in weight loss, there are challenges in terms of qualifications for the medication, high cost – which is often not covered by health insurance – and long-term use due to the risk of rebound weight gain.

Q: How does Virgin Pulse view the role of GLP-1 medications in weight management? Does Virgin Pulse plan to prescribe GLP-1s?

A: While there is initial evidence that GLP-1s can be a game-changing medication for the right patient in the short term, there is still a significant shortage of research on the long-term risks and benefits of staying on this class of drugs. We know that all members, both those who take GLP-1s and those who don’t, can benefit from the effects of lifelong lifestyle change. At this time, Virgin Pulse does not plan to add physician support for GLP-1 prescriptions to our program.

Keeping affordability and long-term sustainable health outcomes in mind, we believe GLP-1 medications must be coupled with evidence-based behavior change programs. This also ensures that those who can first benefit from a behavior change program start there before advancing into more invasive treatments. We also know that members prefer to manage prescriptions with their PCP and health system. This is how we do this right by our members, clients, and community.

Q: What kind of support program do employers, health plans, and providers need to provide for successful weight management?

It's essential to provide people with a comprehensive program that includes support for behavior change and mental health needs – either complementary to the drug or instead of it - as core to your obesity benefits. This comprehensive approach will contribute to successful weight management for the entire population that can benefit from obesity benefits.

Q. What does the Chief Medical Officer of Virgin Pulse recommend for clients when deciding about GLP-1 strategy?

A. Jeff Jacques, MD, chief medical officer of Virgin Pulse, recommends the following measures for clients grappling with complex decisions:

  1. Recognize the lack of a "magic pill" and focus on addressing emotional and mental aspects tied to obesity and combining GLP-1 drugs with structured support systems.
  2. Establish a policy defining requirements before providing coverage for GLP-1 drugs.
  3. Create eligibility requirements, such as requiring employees to participate in company-sponsored weight management programs.
  4. Provide supportive alternatives for non-eligible individuals by offering access to weight management programs.
  5. Require employees to participate in organization-sponsored health and wellbeing platforms alongside medication.
  6. Be proactive about the potential increase in medication costs and consider offering employees fully supported and sustainable weight management programs.

Incorporating these recommendations can help organizations develop comprehensive policies to address weight management effectively.

While the increased demand and popularity of GLP-1s may seem overwhelming for employershealth plans, and benefit consultants, we want all our clients to know that we’re a partner to educate and provide value as they navigate this new and evolving space.