With weight-loss drugs like Ozempic potentially linked to stomach paralysis, retailers hope the news will prompt consumers to increase their grocery spending.
Walmart’s chief executive warned earlier this month about the change in grocery shopping habits of those taking Ozempic. As inflation remains high and Americans continue to curb their spending, appetite suppressants have left some retail leaders even more concerned about their bottom lines.
Walmart has already seen a “slight decline” in customers taking weight-loss medications, said Walmart President Jeff Furner.
Nutrition experts say that the decline in sales among these consumers is not only due to the appetite-stimulating effects of the drugs. Since the out-of-pocket cost of the medication is estimated at $500 per month, it’s easy to understand why customers would prefer to limit the rest of their discretionary spending.
“Some people are not fully insured,” nutritionist Lisa Moskovitz told Yahoo News. “Maybe they spend a lot of money out of their own pocket. They go to the trouble of getting out a needle and injecting it once a week. They are committed.”
The effects of the drugs go beyond consumer behavior in grocery stores — they could also lead to less foot traffic and lower average inspections at restaurants.
“They want me to eat as little as possible and take advantage of this drug that suppresses my appetite, and there may be less consumer action in restaurants,” Moskovitz said.
Analysts at Morgan Stanley estimate that in the next 10 years, 7 percent of the U.S. population, or about 24 million people, could be taking drugs like Ozempic for weight control.
This will likely result in them reducing their diet by 20 percent fewer calories.
The market value of junk food as a whole could decline, with analysts suggesting consumption of sodas, baked goods and salty snacks could decline by 3 percent.
Weight loss medications come with health risks
However, there could be a glimmer of hope for retailers as grocery purchases decline. As more research goes into weight loss drugs, some scientists have pointed to several concerning possible side effects.
A new study published this week suggested that Wegovy and Ozempic may be linked to an increased risk of three serious stomach problems in non-diabetics.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia studied the drugs after they were linked to stomach paralysis and suicidal thoughts in those who took them.
Gastric paralysis occurs when the movement of food between the stomach and intestines stops completely and persistent vomiting often occurs.
There is also an increased risk of intestinal obstruction, which occurs when food is blocked from the small or large intestine, and pancreatitis.
The study was published after analyzing the health insurance claims of about 16 million U.S. patients.
“We are all big advocates of informed patient consent,” said study author Mohit Sodhi MSN. “If someone has decided to take GLP-1 for weight loss, we encourage them to talk to their doctor about how it can help them achieve their goals. But he should also be aware of the possible disadvantages of GLP-1 when taking this drug.
Around 15 percent of Americans have personally used Ozempic for weight loss, but nearly half, 47 percent, know someone who has, a 2023 Tebra survey found.