Online Pharmacies Are Booming Thanks To Weight Loss Drug Fervor – The Average Joe
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    Online Pharmacies Are Booming Thanks To Weight Loss Drug Fervor

    Noah Weidner

    April 8, 2024

    If pharmaceutical companies had their way, weight loss medication vending machines would be in every neighborhood. Instead, they’ve settled for alternative channels that are almost as accessible. In a first-of-its-kind move earlier this year, drugmaker Eli Lilly ($LLY) pioneered a program to sell its weight loss drugs directly to consumers, even teaming with Amazon ($AMZN) for deliveries. Meanwhile, Costco ($COST) recently introduced a service last week, offering GLP-1 weight loss drugs to its members.

    Pocket pharmacy: Everyone is trying to skim off the top of the weight loss drug hype — even telehealth startups, which have begun offering their access to weight loss drugs, which could pose some serious risks for patients. Inconvenienced by long waitlists and costly visits, Americans are turning to companies like Hims & Hers Health ($HIMS), 23andMe’s ($ME) Lemonaid Health, and Ro for prescriptions ranging from hair loss to sexual health and anxiety.

    • These companies are also rolling out subscription services offering GLP-1 drugs or other weight loss alternatives starting at $79/mo.
    • Hims & Hers CEO Andrew Dudum predicts that its new weight loss venture could “deliver more than $100M of revenue in 2025,” with a 48% increase in subscribers due to the new launch.

    AI drug dealers

    The flexibility telehealth offers has a dark side: US regulators impose few restrictions on how and what telehealth companies can prescribe. With Americans seeking affordable medication options, companies are unlikely to refuse treatment — even if patients don’t need it. Telehealth firms stand to generate billions, which NYU’s Head of Medical Ethics warns has created “a conflict of interest.”

    • Despite branding themselves as healthcare providers, many telehealth companies don’t talk to patients — relying on patients to identify side effects and possible drug interactions.
    • Hims began testing artificial intelligence (AI) tools last year to recommend personalized treatments, and doctors are also using AI to help diagnose patients, raising questions about accountability if AI makes errors.

    Forward-looking: Critics like Georgetown’s Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman argue that this approach strays from traditional medicine, stating, “This is selling drugs to consumers.” However, regulators have mostly declined to investigate telehealth practices. Without intervention, these companies could reshape the healthcare landscape unchecked.

    Read: How Novo Nordisk ($NVO) is revolutionizing the weight loss industry amidst the rise of telehealth companies and AI-driven prescriptions.

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