Challenges on the Report Card

Report Card on Our 2022 Trend Predictions

“It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” With this anonymous piece of wisdom in mind, it still makes sense to take a moment to look back at the trends that we hoped and expected to shape the year we complete today. So here’s a narrative report card on our 2022 trend predictions. You, dear reader, will have to assign the final grade.

1. More Care, Less Blame – Inconsistent

On last New Year’s Eve, we were optimistic about more people getting more care for obesity, with less blame and shame. We have a long hill to climb before we can snuff out all the stigma attached to obesity and meet all of the need for obesity care. So it’s impossible to say that 2022 met all of our hopes for progress in this dimension. With that said, we do see more people getting access to care. Two notable examples would be in federal employee health benefit plans and in the Pennsylvania Medicaid program.

Also, this year did bring us a global commitment to ending weight stigma. But make no mistake. We still have work to do on this one.

2. More Plants, Less Dieting – Met Expectations

Of all our predictions for 2022, this one progressed most in line with our expectations. Interest in diets, as measured by Google Trends, continued to wane. Weight neutral healthcare received increasing attention. Non-diet diets became a phenomenon. The subject of weight loss was almost invisible at FNCE.

On the the other hand, plant-based diets continue to be a hot topic. Big claims about the value of plant-based diets for saving the planet and our health are easy to find. The American Heart Association correctly notes that some plant-based dietary options can amount to “vegan junk food.” Nonetheless, the association recommends a “plant-forward” pattern for eating.

3. More Semaglutide, Less Room for Blunders – Incomplete

We ended the year last year with demand outstripping supply for semaglutide in obesity, but hoping for a better ending to 2022. Now, the picture is mixed as we end the year. Novo Nordisk reported this week that all strengths of the Wegovy brand of semaglutide are now available in the U.S. Despite this, the FDA drug shortage database reports that Wegovy, Ozempic, tirzepatide (Mounjaro), and Trulicity are all in short supply.

So it’s too early to say the supply issues that marked the launch of semaglutide are behind us. If anything, this breakthrough drug for obesity has stimulated interest in related drugs and put them into a constrained supply status, too.

4. More Price Competition, Less Difficult Access to Care – Inconsistent

Without a doubt, pricing for obesity drugs has gotten a lot of attention. Tirzepatide came into the market with a list price that makes the (still investigational) dose for obesity less expensive than the Wegovy brand of semaglutide is. And more competition is coming, which may add additional pricing pressure.

But to say that access to care has become less difficult is impossible. Right now, health plans are panicked about how to pay for access to these innovative therapies. Thus, they are making access to these drugs absurdly difficult in some cases. This will have to change.

Challenges on the Report Card, photograph by protoflux, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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December 31, 2022