As weight-loss drugs like Ozempic face a possible link to stomach flu, retailers are hoping the news will prompt consumers to increase spending on food.
Walmart’s chief executive warned about changing food purchasing habits for those taking Ozempic earlier this month. As inflation remains high and Americans continue to falter in their spending, appetite suppressants have made some retail leaders even more concerned about their bottom lines.
Walmart has already seen “a slight pullback” in weight-loss drug customers, Walmart President Jeff Furner said.
Nutrition experts say the drop in sales among these consumers is not just due to the appetite-suppressing effects of the medications. With out-of-pocket drug costs estimated at $500 per month, it’s easy to see why consumers prefer to limit the rest of their discretionary spending.
“For some people, it’s not fully covered by insurance,” registered dietitian Lisa Moskovitz told Yahoo News. “They could be spending a lot of money out of their own pocket. They are going to the trouble of taking a needle and injecting once a week. They are committed.”
The ramifications of the drugs go beyond just consumer behavior at grocery stores — they can also lead to less foot traffic and a lower check average at restaurants.
“They want me to eat as little as possible and enjoy this medication that is suppressing my appetite mentality, and there will potentially be less consumer action at restaurants,” Moskovitz said.
Morgan Stanley analysts predict that within the next 10 years, 7% of the U.S. population, or about 24 million people, will be able to take medications like Ozempic to control their weight.
This will likely cause them to reduce their diets by 20% fewer calories.
Junk food as a whole could see its market value plummet, with analysts theorizing that consumption of soft drinks, baked goods and snacks could decrease by 3%.
Weight loss medications linked to health risks
However, there may be a ray of hope for retailers seeing the decline in food purchases. As more research goes into weight loss medications, some scientists have sounded the alarms about several worrying potential side effects.
A new study released this week indicated that Wegovy and Ozempic may be associated with an increased risk of three serious stomach illnesses in non-diabetic patients.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia investigated the drugs after they were linked to stomach paralysis and suicidal ideation in those taking them.
Stomach paralysis occurs when the movement of food is completely stopped between the stomach and intestine, and persistent vomiting often occurs.
There is also an increased risk of intestinal obstruction, which occurs when food is blocked in the small or large intestine, as well as pancreatitis.
The study was published after analyzing the health insurance claims records of about 16 million patients in the US.
“We are all big advocates of informed patient consent,” study author Mohit Sodhi told MSN. “If someone has decided they would like to take a GLP-1 for weight loss, we encourage them to talk to their provider about how it can help them achieve their goals. taking this medicine.”
About 15 percent of Americans have personally used Ozempic for weight loss, but nearly half, 47 percent, know someone who has, a 2023 Tebra survey found.
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