Wearable Tech and Its Potential to Monitor Wegovy Treatment Efficacy

14 May 2024

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) recent approval of the loss drug Wegovy means it’ll soon sweep the nation. However, as its popularity and price have surged, it’s become less accessible to the average American. Can wearables provide a solution to this problem?

The Problem With Wegovy and How Wearables Can Fix It

The weight loss market is at an all-time high — and indicators suggest it’ll continue expanding. According to one estimate, its value will surpass $399.3 billion by 2032, achieving a CAGR of 10.3%. This growth has driven demand for drugs like Wegovy.

Wegovy is a treatment for chronic weight management. Its recent FDA approval means it will likely become one of the leading weight loss drugs in the United States. That said, despite the country’s high obesity rate most — 41.9% of adults over 20 are obese — Americans won’t benefit from it.

Most people don’t have an extra $1,300 to spend each month — that’s Wegovy’s list price. Although one report found its average net price was $700 monthly between 2022 to 2023, it’s still more than most can afford.

What’s worse is that Wegovy isn’t just a weight loss drug — new evidence suggests it can also lower the risk of cardiovascular issues, prolonging people’s lives. A 17,000-patient study discovered those taking it had a 20% lower risk of experiencing a cardiac-related health event than those taking a placebo.

Skyrocketing demand, high research and development costs, the limited availability of clinical trials, and technology gaps might make it almost impossible for Novo Nordisk — the drugmaker behind Wegovy — to improve the accessibility of its lifesaving, fat-burning drug. That’s where wearable tech comes in.

Wearables could improve Wegovy’s treatment efficacy, increasing its ability to accomplish desired outcomes. Their unique data collection capabilities could also accelerate research, potentially lowering costs and increasing accessibility.

How Wearables Can Track and Enhance Treatment Efficacy

Wearable tech has emerged as the next horizon in health care. It has proven exceptionally valuable in clinical trials because it can gather patient data 24/7 regardless of participants’ location — specialized facilities and invasive observation technology can move aside.

Medical professionals can track treatment efficacy by monitoring the real-time patient data internet-connected wearables constantly send. Being able to view data-driven results immediately instead of waiting for testing or in-person visits streamlines their processes.

Eventually, clinical trial teams can gather enough information to segment participants by demographics, physical states, or preexisting conditions. This way, they can tailor factors like dosage or medication frequency to each group, increasing the drug’s effectiveness.

Unlike other sensor technologies, wearable tech often pairs with a supplementary app. Drugmakers and clinical trial leaders could use this unique functionality to send helpful push notifications or help people track their progress.

Wearable Tech Tracks Patients’ Treatment Responses

Wearable tech can monitor physiological responses like glucose levels and heart rate without invasive procedures like blood drawing. It can track metrics like blood pressure, blood oxygen level, or daily calories burned the same way.

Non-invasive sensor tech — meaning no needles, swallowable capsules, or electrodes — could help people feel better about participating in clinical trials or taking new drugs. There’s no longer any need for repetitive, painful, or time-consuming testing.

How Wearable Tech Can Promote Self-Efficacy

One overlooked opportunity for wearables involves self-efficacy — a person’s belief in their ability to reach a specific goal. When people wear something that tracks their activity and health, they feel more inclined to improve their habits. While a medication can help people slim down, weight loss usually requires various efforts.

In a 68-week clinical trial, Wegovy lowered participants’ mean body weight by 14.9% by targeting hormones responsible for appetite and food intake — a noticeable difference from the placebo’s 2.4% reduction. Notably, the loss is within the 5%–15% range recommended to improve obesity-related conditions.

Although research shows Wegovy outperforms similar drugs, its long-term outcomes remain unproven — the 68-week clinical trial saw participants adopt healthy habits and take the drug to achieve clinically relevant body weight reduction. In other words, the self-efficacy wearables could prompt lifestyle changes, increasing the drug’s effectiveness.

Research suggests wearables increase self-efficacy in weight loss trial participants by encouraging physical activity, motivating and enhancing awareness. While there’s no clear link between diet, exercise, and this technology, researchers have made some connections.

Wearables could go a long way in making Wegovy more accessible to the average American seeking to shed a few pounds. Typically, people gain weight quickly after stopping these kinds of drugs, but most won’t be able to afford the $700 monthly bill. Pairing the medication with lifestyle changes could enhance its effectiveness, increasing long-term success.

Integration Obstacles That Need Overcoming

One of the largest obstacles drugmakers and clinical trial leaders must overcome is data accuracy. Although 24/7 at-home monitoring makes processes easier, it can also mess them up. Countless variables could affect results since participants aren’t inside a controlled environment.

Wegovy isn’t supposed to be used with other semaglutide-containing products for safety reasons. This factor is simple enough to control in a lab. However, it’s easy for someone at home to pick up an over-the-counter prescription or use an herbal remedy without reading the label to check for semaglutide.

Privacy concerns are another obstacle since wearable tech tracks excess information. While the abundance of measurements is excellent for researchers, patients might hesitate to share so much. There’s also the issue of data breaches and leaks.

If the weight loss market plans to integrate wearables into health care — a sector notorious for its late adoption of technology due to several legal, moral, and regulatory hurdles — they’ll need to consider the upfront cost. Do clinical trial participants pay for the tech? Who pays when someone breaks theirs?

Decision-makers should also consider long-term effectiveness. While this tech can inspire lifestyle changes, people might be unwilling to stick to their new fitness routines. Unless they ensure participants stay dedicated, it’ll look like their decreasing use correlates to diminishing efficacy.

The Power of Wearable Tech for Treatment Efficacy

If clinical trial leaders and medical professionals give people wearables when they hand out Wegovy, there’s a good chance they’ll enhance treatment success, leading to better long-term patient outcomes. Eventually, these improvements could lead to a more affordable drug and higher demand — a win-win for both the drugmaker and those looking to lose weight.