CVS adds weight management to its PBM lineup

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CVS Health is bolstering offerings to its PBM lineup, including a new weight management benefit to help employees drop the so-called “COVID 15.”

Naturally Slim, a Dallas-based digital weight management platform, is now part of Point Solutions Management, part of CVS Caremark’s roster of wellness benefits. Last week, CVS added the anxiety management app Daylight, to the same lineup. Medical leaders at CVS say the PBM’s recent additions are part of the company’s efforts to include benefits designed to help employees tackle challenges posed by the pandemic, including weight gain.

“The tactics of helping us understand our relationship with food were important pre-pandemic, but they’re definitely more important now,” says Dr. Sree Chaguturu, chief medical officer at CVS Caremark, the PBM of CVS Health. “The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live out our day. We’re not outside as much, and we’re always at home where we’re close to food 24/7.”

Americans have been struggling with their weight throughout the pandemic; 76% say they’ve gained up to 16 pounds, according to a survey of 2,000 people by OnePoll and Nutrisystem. Chaguturu says this is a huge problem because obesity triggers a plethora of other health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and joint issues. Excess weight also has a significant impact on mental health, sleep quality and overall resilience, he says.

“People don’t realize how much energy and confidence they can gain by adopting healthy habits,” Chaguturu says. “For employers, that means happier, more productive employees.”

Out of all the weight loss management programs on the market, Chaguturu says CVS chose Naturally Slim because of the program’s emphasis on identifying and changing unhealthy behaviors using cognitive behavioral therapy, and other psychological techniques. While Americans as a whole have been struggling with weight gain, Naturally Slim users have dropped weight during the pandemic; between February and May, men lost an average of 13.1 pounds, and women 8.9 pounds.

“Ninety percent of weight loss is above the shoulders,” says Dr. Tim Church, chief medical officer of Naturally Slim. “Real change won’t happen unless you practice mindfulness and address the reasons behind your eating habits.”

Naturally Slim is a digital platform users can access on their phones or computers. Unlike many weight loss programs, Church says, Naturally Slim doesn’t restrict what users can eat, nor does it provide prepackaged food. Instead, the program invites users to explore the reasons behind their eating habits, and offers solutions for improving those habits. Church and Doug Layman, chief revenue officer of Naturally Slim, say psychologists around the world were involved in creating the program.

“I’m not going to take away your pizza — depriving people of the foods they love doesn’t work, and it’s not real life,” Church says. “Instead, I’m going to teach you to enjoy and savor those two slices of pizza. If you do that instead of cramming down salad — which you didn’t want in the first place — before having pizza, you’ll find that you’ve actually cut your calorie consumption in half because you slowed down and enjoyed your food.”

Church says tactics like this work because there’s a 20-minute communication delay between our brains and stomachs — we’re often full before we think we are. Combine that with the fact that many people turn to food as an answer for boredom or stress, and you have the perfect recipe for weight gain. Layman says he didn’t realize how problematic eating habits could be until he tried the program himself.

“I was an athlete growing up, and I could eat whatever I wanted,” Layman says. “But as I got older, I realized that I built zero skills on when and why I eat. The program was teaching me principles I never had growing up — ones many Americans probably don’t have.”

Employers have the option to offer Naturally Slim to their employees’ families as well, which Church and Layman suggest will help boost employee morale.

“Healthy eating starts at home,” Church says. “Getting the whole family on board can certainly improve employees’ personal lives, with more energy and confidence for everyone. We get calls from HR departments saying this is the only benefit that employees actually message them about to say thank you.”

Naturally Slim is available to all employers using CVS Caremark. Chaguturu says CVS plans to add more wellness offerings to its benefits lineup, all of which will address issues that are typically expensive for both employers and consumers to treat. The offerings will also be digital so users can access the benefits during quarantine.

“It’s amazing to think how radically different the world was six months ago, before COVID was widespread,” Chaguturu says. “It definitely accelerated the trend for telemedicine and digital solutions. We recognize we have the ability to use our assets to help plan sponsors identify high quality solutions.”

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