As a blockbuster drug that has also been rumored to have been taken by celebrities; Ozempic has taken the world stage as the crowd’s favorite weight loss drug. This FDA-approved medication boasts several benefits, ranging from its treatment of type 2 diabetes to its assistance in weight loss.

In a country and an era where obesity is on the rise, it is important now more than ever to find effective ways of losing weight. Ozempic, as well as other weight loss medications, have the potential to address this significant public health concern by offering a convenient, safe, and efficacious way to shed pounds. But what many of us have not considered is the downstream impact of widespread weight loss. By suppressing people’s appetites, decreasing weight, and consequently changing your pant size, Ozempic may disrupt several industries. The food, airline, and clothing industries are just some of the many ways that Ozempic will shake up the economy. This article will explore just how it may do that.

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic, also known as its active ingredient semaglutide, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in adults. By taking Ozempic via a once-weekly injection, you can lower your blood sugar levels by supporting the pancreas’ insulin production. In return, Ozempic reduces cardiovascular risk by regulating blood sugar in those with diabetes.

Although Ozempic is indicated for diabetes, it also is effective in the realm of weight loss. Its active ingredient semaglutide is available under a different brand name, Wegovy, which is indicated specifically for weight loss treatment in obese or overweight individuals. Wegovy is marketed at a higher dose than Ozempic, contributing to these effects. However, many providers prescribe Ozempic off-label for weight management in combination with diet and exercise given semaglutide’s effects on weight.

How does Ozempic work for weight loss?

Semaglutide, Ozempic’s active ingredient, belongs to a class of medications called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. As a GLP-1 agonist, Ozempic mimics natural GLP-1, a hormone, in the body. This hormone operates by stimulating insulin production, in turn regulating your blood sugar. Ozempic also functions by slowing gastric emptying. Gastric emptying refers to the process by which your food contents are moved through the digestive tract. By slowing this process down, you feel fuller for longer. Thus, you end up eating less and losing weight.

The rise in Ozempic popularity

Ozempic prescription numbers have taken off exponentially within the last few years as the public has started catching on to its benefits. In an analysis of millions of electronic health records, findings indicate that 1.7 percent of the US population has received a prescription for Ozempic in 2023 alone. This incidence is 40 times that over the last five years, representing a striking uptake in semaglutide users. It is important to note that not everyone is using Ozempic for its on-label indication of type 2 diabetes. More and more Americans are using Ozempic to manage their weight.

The rapid increase in off-label prescribing of Ozempic has resulted in several nationwide Ozempic shortages. As a result, individuals who rely on Ozempic for their type 2 diabetes have not always been able to access the medication. This phenomenon gained news traction at the beginning of the year, but there may be even more implications of Ozempic than we initially thought. Ozempic has the potential to disrupt several industries, including the food, airline, and clothing industries.

Downstream effects of Ozempic-associated weight loss

The impact of Ozempic is perhaps far greater than what we may have first realized. In the beginning, Ozempic was a quick way to shed a few pounds, thereby bettering people’s health, wellness, and self-esteem. What we may not have considered, however, is the widespread economic impact of Ozempic, and we’re not just talking about pharmaceuticals. By causing marked reductions in weight, semaglutide can affect several industries.

The food industry

We previously discussed one of the major mechanisms underlying Ozempic’s efficacy: slowing gastric emptying. Delayed gastric emptying allows us to feel fuller for longer, thus lowering our food intake throughout the day. Eating less food requires less food, so our grocery bills might go down as a result. This can affect major food retailers.

In fact, one Walmart exec reported findings that those on GLP-1 medications like Ozempic purchased less food compared with other customers. The Wall Street Journal also indicated that individuals on weight loss drugs are estimated to lower their food consumption by up to 30 percent.

On the other hand, retailers like Walmart also offer pharmacy services and therefore can dispense semaglutide. Selling Ozempic in their pharmacies can boost sales and bring in customers. Additionally, weight loss may perpetuate sales for other products aimed at weight loss, fitness, and lifestyle. Lean Cuisine meals, for example, may benefit. In addition, leading a healthier lifestyle at a healthier weight may lead people to cut out other unhealthy habits like alcohol and smoking.

Food aisle at supermarket

The airline industry

Now this one might be a shocking one that you have not considered, but weight loss medications may even have the ability to shake up the airline industry. We have all been in a situation where we’re hoping our travel bags meet the weight requirements to avoid paying extra. But what is the big deal about a little extra weight? The answer is this: a large cost of airplane travel relates to jet-fuel consumption, which amounts to an incredibly hefty cost. Jet fuel consumption is impacted by the weight of the plane, meaning that the weight of everything, even the people, matters.

The rise of weight loss medications and consequent lower average weight of passengers can help to decrease costs associated with jet fuel. It is estimated that with just a weight loss of 10 pounds on average per passenger, United Airlines would save $80 million a year. This would also translate into being better for the environment. In addition, on an individual basis, obese or overweight patients may end up paying less as well. Given the close quarters of airplanes, it is not uncommon for obese individuals to purchase two seats so that they and their neighbors can sit more comfortably. Losing weight with GLP-1s may mitigate this issue, avoiding the need to purchase two seats.

The clothing industry

Ozempic even has the potential to change the clothing industry, in more ways than one. When shedding the pounds, people’s clothing will start to not fit. Likewise, people will be seeking to update their wardrobes as they change sizes. Bank of America reports that individuals typically update their wardrobe with every two-size change. If this is true, through 2030 the clothing industry would likely accumulate $50 billion dollars in profits from wardrobe updates alone.

Ozempic will also most certainly impact retailers that are specifically focused on plus-sized apparel. Reductions of 10 to 20 percent of body weight can significantly lower the demand for plus-size clothing. Other clothing niches, like athletic apparel, are expected to be impacted as well. However, these industries are likely to benefit. With weight loss, people may become more active and exercise more frequently, increasing the demand for workout clothing.

Woman measuring her waist for weight loss

What else may be impacted?

Ozempic will be a catalyst for more than just food, airline, and clothing market shifts. Here are a few other changes we may see as well:

  • Decreases alcohol and tobacco sales. People on weight loss medications will sometimes have decreased cravings for other substances.
  • Gyms and fitness studios. Individuals on weight loss medications are more likely to engage in exercise. Most of these drugs specify that they should be used in combination with healthy diet and exercise practices. As a result, people will be more likely to hit the gym and buy memberships.
  • Fitness equipment. You will see the same changes in demand when it comes to fitness equipment because people are leading healthier lifestyles.

How soon can we expect these changes?

Although these industry shifts are striking, we may not see the larger impacts for a few more years. But don’t worry – they’re coming. Morgan Stanley estimates that by 2035, roughly 20 percent of the 133 million obese people in the US will be on a weight loss medication similar to Ozempic. This increase will likely have a butterfly effect on many industries mentioned and perhaps changes that we have not even foreseen yet.

Conclusion

When we think of Ozempic, we often think of it as a miracle drug that can finally get us down in weight. But while Ozempic certainly can be life-changing on a personal level, it is also likely to affect the economy through its impact on various industries. The food, airline, and clothing industries are just some of the many potential industries affected, and these changes could be both good and bad. It will be both interesting and note-worthy to see how these predictions play out, and how just one weight loss drug can change the world.