The Race to Prevent Ozempic Muscle Loss Is On

Health startups, fitness clubs, and pharmaceutical companies are all trying to find a solution to muscle loss for the users of weight loss pills.

Companies are trying to keep up with the demand as more physicians and patients seek solutions to mitigate the muscle loss that can occur when using drugs like Ozempic, which are becoming more and more popular for weight loss.

Strength-training regimens tailored to those on these prescriptions are being offered by luxury gyms, with the goal of assisting clients in “optimizing their outcomes.” 

muscle loss

Concerns Over Muscle Loss and Industry response

Plans are being developed by nutritionists and meal delivery providers to assist patients in getting adequate protein. Additionally, drug makers like Eli Lilly, the maker of Zepbound and Mounjaro, are working to develop combination therapies that stop muscle loss.

“I understand that some may think, ‘Oh, we’re trying to fix the liability.'” Eli Lilly’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, denied such a claim. He said the challenge is in improving the benefits of medication to help patients in losing body fat while preserving or even building their muscle mass.  The drug replicates the production of a hormone that can enhance muscle growth and metabolism while exercising.

Additionally, Versanis, a biopharmaceutical company that makes a drug that blocks receptors regulating skeletal muscle and fat accumulation, was acquired by Eli Lilly last year.

Dr. Steven Heymsfield, a professor of metabolism and body composition at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana and an expert on the drug bimagrumab, stated, “When it does that, muscles get bigger.”

Additionally, a trial involving people who have obesity is investigating semaglutide, the ingredient in Ozempic, and bimagrumab. The drug maker Regeneron plans to launch a clinical trial combining semaglutide with an antibody treatment that blocks receptors which regulate muscle growth later this year. 

Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration approved a clinical trial on Tuesday to figure out whether a substance that had been tried as a treatment for loss of muscle in older people could help those 60 and older who are taking weight loss drugs sustain more muscle and burn more fat.

“These weight-loss drugs basically cause frailty in older patients in months not years,” stated Dr. Mitchell Steiner, CEO of Veru, the company that is carrying out the study.

However, years would pass before folks using drugs for weight loss have access to these new meds, even if these tests prove to be helpful.

Patient Concerns and Medical Advice On Risks of Muscle loss

Meanwhile, doctors warn that these patients must find measures to maintain their muscle mass.

Dr. Scott Hagan, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington who specializes in obesity research, stated that those who lose too much muscle, especially older adults and postmenopausal women, run the risk of becoming fragile or getting osteoporosis.

However, Dr. Hagan noted that anyone losing muscle could feel weak and exhausted, as well as have a higher chance of falling and getting hurt.

Director of obesity medicine at the Stanford Lifestyle and Weight Management Center Dr. Michelle Hauser stated, “Just because we’re losing weight doesn’t always mean we’re getting healthier.”

Doctors usually recommend strength training and eating protein as two easy ways to combat the loss of muscle.

Companies are profiting from both of these goals. Abbott launched a line of protein drinks targeted toward drug users in January, while Daily Harvest, a meal delivery service, launched a new “companion food collection” designed for those using the drugs.

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Startups that focus on nutrition, such as Nourish and Berry Street, that connect consumers with dietitians, have started advertising services tailored especially for patients taking these drugs.

According to Dominique Adair, head of clinical quality at Nourish, the company’s providers promote protein intake and pay special attention to the risk of malnutrition for patients using weight loss drugs.

Noom is a telemedicine startup that began by prescribing medications to help people lose weight and now offers behavioral health coaching as well as a product called Muscle Defense that includes protein tracking and exercise videos.

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Equinox, a high-end fitness company, now offers a personal training program designed especially for those on medication.

The online fitness platform Obé Fitness created its MuscleGuard training program by partnering with a virtual care specialist that prescribes drugs for weight loss.

Furthermore, LifeTime Fitness, a fitness club in Minnesota, is testing a clinic that offers compounded weight loss drugs in addition to weight lifting-focused personal training. The FDA has warned against using these unauthorized substitutes.

By the end of the year, the national chain intends to take the move to “major markets,” according to a spokesperson.

Although most patients don’t need to start an intense gym regimen or stuff protein powder into every meal, a customized program might help them preserve muscle, according to Dr. Hagan.

We’re not trying to turn you into a bodybuilder or anything like that, he tried to emphasize. “Doing light weight training twice a week could be very effective.” 

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