Earlier this year, the FDA approved a new GLP-1 medication called WegovyTM (semaglutide) which has been shown to lead up to 20% weight loss, twice that of existing GLP-1s in clinical studies. While WegovyTM has proven to be a major advancement in obesity medicine, GLP-1s have long been the standard of care in academic institutions to treat overweight and obesity.
I previously reviewed Calibrate's One-Year Metabolic Reset––a program that combines GLP-1 medication with a comprehensive, fully integrated program combining a structured curriculum and 1:1 coaching, metabolic tracking and community, and telemedicine. By combining medication with Calibrate’s comprehensive program, members improve their metabolic health and sustain weight loss.
What about these medications make them safe and effective for the treatment of overweight and obesity, how are they different from other weight loss products and services, and what is the best way to achieve metabolic health and sustained weight loss?
To answer these questions and more, I spoke with Calibrate about the science behind GLP-1s.
What are GLP-1 medications?
GLP-1’s (glucagon-like peptide-1s) are a class of prescription medications that mimic the effect of the GLP-1 hormone naturally produced in the gastrointestinal tract. Initially approved by the FDA in 2005 as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, GLP-1s have shown to not only improve glucose levels, but have also proven effective for weight loss and other metabolic health benefits.
How do GLP-1 medications contribute to weight loss?
In your body, GLP-1s are powerful hormones made by your gut that send signals to your brain to regulate your metabolic system, reduce your appetite, and help you feel full. Research shows that people who hold onto more weight experience reductions in GLP-1 signaling. Unlike other weight-loss drugs, the GLP-1 medications that Calibrate doctors prescribe work on the same receptors as naturally occurring hormones. They address systems core to obesity, while simultaneously influencing blood sugar response and insulin. The GLP-1s used in the Calibrate program help your body fight the natural increases in appetite and hunger that occur as you begin to lose weight.
When it comes to improving your metabolic health, GLP-1 medication should be used in conjunction with lifestyle changes proven to support weight loss. By combining GLP-1 medications with intensive lifestyle intervention, Calibrate’s program effectively lowers your set point to improve your metabolic health. Your set point is the weight your body naturally settles at due to an interplay of genetics, biology, and the environment. While we can’t change your genetics, we can influence your environment and how your biology responds to it.
The goal for each member is that by the time they stop taking GLP-1s, not only will they have lowered their set point to lose weight and improve their metabolic health significantly, but they will also have the tools to maintain the food, exercise, sleep, and emotional health habits needed to sustain those changes over time. Unlike conventional weight loss players who continue to recycle the same belief of calories-in and calories-out, Calibrate’s program is proven to work; Calibrate’s earliest members have lost an average of 14% of their body weight, exceeding results seen in clinical trials.
How do GLP-1s differ from other weight loss medications?
Unlike other weight loss medications, GLP-1s address the underlying biology that is most important for weight loss, and are the standard of care at leading academic institutions.
Phentermine, for example, is a stimulant (an amphetamine-like analogue) that reduces hunger so that you can more easily deprive yourself of calories—but eating less is not a sustainable solution for weight loss. Phentermine can also cause serious side effects including headaches, increased thirst, and significant elevation in blood pressure—which can force your heart to work harder and exacerbate any existing heart conditions. Contrave, another popular weight loss medication, is a combination of Wellbutrin (a medicine primarily used in the treatment of depression), and naltrexone (a drug used primarily in the prevention of alcohol or opioid abuse). Like phentermine, Contrave helps to reduce appetite.
If you discontinue the use of either of these medications, you’re likely to regain the weight you lost because these medications fail to address the underlying biology of weight gain, producing short-term results. For example, depriving yourself of calories while taking phentermine is counterproductive to your preferred outcome because your body is working to defend its set point. Because of this, cutting calories and eating less is not sustainable for weight loss. To effectively lower your set point, your biology and environment must be addressed through a GLP-1 medication and small tweaks that add up to impactful changes in the foods you eat, how you sleep, how much you exercise, and how your emotional health is supported.
Side Effects and Safety
GLP-1s are stimulant-free and non-habit forming, making them safe and effective for long-term use, and have fewer and less harmful side effects than all other prescription weight loss medications. While many people don’t experience any side effects with GLP-1s, those who do may suffer from nausea when they start taking the medication due to the dosage. If the nausea does not subside, your Calibrate doctor will work with you to find the best course of action, and address any other side effects.
How To Get GLP-1 Medication After Insurance Denies You
My doctor prescribed me a GLP-1, but my insurance company denied me coverage. Why will it be any different through Calibrate if I have not switched my insurance provider?
Obtaining coverage can be time-consuming and challenging, often taking a physician several tries to hit on the right medication for a patient’s insurance, and even then the approval process can be arduous.
There are a variety of reasons why people may be denied coverage for GLP-1s. An insurance formulary will often only cover one brand name GLP-1, and if your doctor prescribes you a GLP-1 that isn’t covered, you will be denied coverage outright instead of receiving information about alternative coverage options.
To help navigate insurance hurdles on our members’ behalf, Calibrate is implementing a proprietary technology that learns over time what medication and insurance combinations have the highest likelihood of success. By utilizing this technology, we’ve not only been able to get 90% of our members’ GLP-1 medications covered, but we’ve also had members who were previously denied coverage successfully get these medications covered after joining Calibrate.
Why does Calibrate prescribe GLP-1 medications?
GLP-1s target the underlying biology that is most critical for weight loss by affecting the body’s set point––the weight your body fights to maintain––and improving how it handles insulin and glucose. But GLP-1s also work to improve metabolic health, with far-reaching benefits including reducing inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk.
How much weight can you lose using Calibrate?
Because our program is rooted in evidence-based science and research, Calibrate is able to drive weight loss of at least 10%. While our members often lose more than 10%––our earliest members lost an average of 14%––10% remains the goal for each member because this amount is clinically significant in driving improvements across all metabolic markers.
To see if Calibrate is right for you, take their eligibility quiz. Calibrate’s One-Year Metabolic Reset is priced at $1,620, billed once, or $135, billed monthly through Affirm. For more information, visit their site.