|Tech reporter Alexandra Sternlicht here, filling in for Alyson.
The Ozempic craze is sweeping the world, and its success is driven, in part, by a network of health influencers on TikTok. But it’s not just the drugmakers manufacturing Ozempic and other weight loss drugs like Wegovy and Mounjaro that are getting rich. Nascent telehealth providers that prescribe brand-name and compound versions of the drugs are paying TikTok influencers in referral commissions and drug discounts to promote their companies to weight-conscious consumers.
In a new story, I speak with weight loss influencers, legal experts, and telehealth executives to understand the social media marketing that powers the world’s fixation with weight loss injectables.
My reporting first began as a TikTok user, passively watching hours (hours!) of videos mostly of women who often dropped upwards of 100 pounds and danced around in skintight dresses, bonding with their cheerful kids and basking in their husbands’ unyielding desire for their newly slender bodies. Intrigued, I visited the influencers’ links to unfamiliar telehealth providers like Ivim, Valhalla Vitality, Slym, bmiMD, Push Health, Sunrise, Mochi Health, and Accomplish Health whose marketing promises unbridled happiness that results from skinniness.
It’s consumer behavior like mine that has turned GLP-1 and tirzeptide compound provider Valhalla Vitaly into an eight-figure revenue business in just over a year of operations, according to the company’s CEO, who I interviewed for the story.
Though affiliate marketing is one of the oldest plays in the book, influencers getting drug discounts and referral commissions for new patient registrations is fresh and is squarely in a legally gray area.
Read my full story below.