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Are weight-loss drugs a new wrinkle for bariatrics?

Are weight-loss drugs a new wrinkle for bariatrics?

Bariatrics has been a consistently strong market for home medical equipment over the past couple decades, with few external disruptions to impede its progress. So, the seemingly overnight arrival of weight-loss drugs Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro raise questions for the market, from how they will impact bariatric surgery to heavy-duty medical equipment.  

Yet, industry analysts and manufacturers don’t think it’s a major issue right now, as it is not realistic for many people to access these drugs due to cost, availability and side effects. 

“While we hope to see these drugs result in better health outcomes, bariatric DME has been a growing category for a number of years, and we expect the market to continue to grow worldwide as the Baby Boom generation enters its senior years,” said Jason Moskowitz, vice president of sales of the Clinical Care Division for Port Washington, N.Y.-based Drive/DeVilbiss. “The lifestyle, diet and co-morbidity issues that have already contributed to growth in obesity are still there with some projections suggesting as many as half of U.S. adults will be obese by 2030.” 

In taking a broad view of the marketplace, Reuters reported that U.S. medical device makers “do not see a big impact of new weight-loss treatments on the sales of equipment in procedures such as bariatric surgery due to prohibitive costs of the drugs. as well as reimbursement hurdles.” Medicines such as Wegovy can cost more than $1,000 per month, and only about one-third of patients prescribed a weight-loss drug like Wegovy were still taking it a year later, according to the new organization’s analysis of pharmacy claims data. 

Market dimensions 

To capitalize on the strong, stable bariatric market, providers should emphasize their capabilities in that space by incorporating those products into their overall marketing and sales efforts, manufacturers say. 

“For example, outlining all the product categories where the provider offers bariatric products – power and manual wheelchairs, beds, patient aids and therapeutic support surfaces – can help educate those referral sources of the products and services the provider offers,” said John Domanick, key account manager for Cape Coral, Fla.-based Merits.  

Specialized brochures with product images, dedicated web pages and social media campaigns are all effective marketing tools to get the word out regarding bariatric capabilities, manufacturers say. 

“Specialization can certainly be an advantage and thus allow a provider to focus their energies on this particular market segment, of course, provided the business that's generated is sufficient to fund the specialization,” Domanick said. 

The most successful providers in the market have committed to being a complete solution in the bariatric market, manufacturers say.   

“You need to have more than one option available and it’s important to remember other challenges they might have and help them with those, as well,” said Steve Wakser, senior vice president of Homecare Sales for North and South America at Drive/DeVilbiss. 

Referrals & service 

Bariatric referrals are plentiful – if the provider knows where to look, manufacturers say. 

“We are seeing more bariatric clinics and service centers emerge alongside hospitals and long-term care facilities,” Moskowitz said. “Dedication to the bariatric market can help set you apart as a specialist with a full line of products that meet the unique needs of this population.” 

Understanding the special requirements of bariatric clients and how they vary from traditional patients is also paramount, manufacturers say. 

“Have products and services available that cater specifically to them and operate with care and compassion,” Moskowitz said.


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