Bariatric News caught up with Bart Bandy, CEO of ReShape LifeSciences™, to discuss the latest developments at the company including the impact of COVID, the company’s merger with Obalon Therapeutics, the launch of reshapecare™ and ReShape Marketplace™, and why the company is more than just ‘the Lap-Band® company’…
“Like many companies in the elective surgery industry, the pandemic shook everything up for us and our clinical customers were unsure of what the short- and long-term future would look like. As a company, we took this time to focus on how we were going to come out of the pandemic stronger, making sure we had everything in place so we could emerge on the other side prepared,” he began.
As the links between the severity of COVID-19 and obesity become more apparent, he noted that there was a noticeable focus shift in conversation between healthcare professionals from the clinical aspects of obesity surgery to ‘how do we manage our practice and care for our patients during a pandemic?’
“Our response was, well, you can still do Lap-Bands in ambulatory surgery centers, how can we help? While some hospitals were suspending elective surgeries, or in some cases shutting down, we had some customers begin implanting more Lap-Bands where they had access to outpatient settings. During the pandemic, the patients did not simply go away and the need for bariatric surgery did not disappear, therefore some surgeons saw this as an opportunity to modify their practice,” explained Bandy. “We have found that a considerable number of certified surgeons did not stop using the Lap-Band due to negative motives, they just didn’t have the patient flow and the infrastructure resources or justification for the correlated patient aftercare. With this key customer insight, prior to and during the pandemic, these were two areas that we committed to improving as a company.”
reshapecare™ Virtual Health Coaching Program
With this in mind, the company has launched its reshapecare™ virtual health coaching program. The service is tailored to patients pursuing weight-loss surgery or medically supervised weight-loss programs, including those who may have lost continuity of care. It is a live, telehealth-based coaching program that provides online weight-loss coaching and lifestyle therapy for patients affected by obesity and its associated comorbid conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes. Through the service, patients are matched with board certified health coaches and enjoy one-on-one sessions with exclusive access to validated educational and support resources. Crucially, the service must be prescribed by a physician, can be customised to their practice, and is covered by most insurance plans.
Bandy stressed that reshapecare is not just for Lap-Band patients, it is available as a pre- and post-operative service and is appropriate for all bariatric surgery and medically supervised weight-loss patients. The company believes that reshapecare is a seamless extension of a healthcare provider's practice that can optimize patient engagement, improve outcomes, and drive new revenue for practices.
In June 2021, the company completed its merger with Obalon Therapeutics and the combined company's common stock began trading on Nasdaq. As a Nasdaq-listed company, ReShape expanded its visibility to the investment community and has since raised approximately US$46 million in capital. The new funds not only allowed the company to repay in full the outstanding principal and accrued interest under its secured credit agreement, but also to fund and advance its internal product pipeline, as well as dramatically expand and launch their extensive direct to patient national advertising campaign for next-generation Lap-Band program supported through reshapecare.
“Our research has shown that gastric bypass and sleeve are still viewed by many patients as aggressive and permanent, they don’t like the idea of major surgery and its potential complications, hospital stays, or irreversible alterations of their anatomy. Conversely, they see the Lap-Band as a reimbursed option that is not going to drastically alter their body, it is adjustable with their weight-loss progress and lifestyle needs, and is not permanent as it can be removed. Many see the Lap-Band as a flexible tool to help them lose weight,” he added. “This current environment presents an opportune time for our company to get this messaging and awareness out to patients who want to manage their weight but have not had success with dieting or do not want more invasive operations.”
He stated that ReShape Lifesciences does not want to be known only as the ‘Lap-Band company’, but as the premier physician-led weight loss solutions company, who can offer a portfolio of proven products and services through licensed medical providers to manage and treat obesity and associated metabolic disease.
One Size Does Not Fit All
“Everybody is different, and one size does not fit all when it comes to treating obesity and metabolic disease. A golfer does not use the same club for every shot, and as a company we understand that we need to offer different options and solutions. We have all heard the same song for the last decade that only 1% of eligible patients have weight-loss surgery. It is our corporate responsibility to educate patients and help more of them engage with their doctors to choose from the different treatments and services available today.”
As part of the company’s more holistic approach to weight management, in June 2021 it launched ReShape Marketplace™, which provides consumers with practical weight loss and wellness products in the areas of nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress. Some of the products that will be available through ReShape Marketplace include, but are not limited to, portion control guides, supplements, weighted-gravity blankets, foam rollers, practical exercise equipment and technologies to support proper hydration.
"A physician or health coach may recommend a portion control plate or exercise bands, and instead of burdening that patient to search stores or the internet for various products, they can come directly to ReShape Marketplace™, reducing effort and excuses. We believe that if we support patients and help them reduce the avoidable struggles of the weight-loss journey, they will have more energy and focus to dedicate towards achieving better outcomes.”
The company is also prepared to restart its EU-based clinical trial of the ReShape Vest™, a laparoscopic, implantable device to support weight loss and potentially procedural durability. “Obviously, with the pandemic we had to suspend the clinical trial of the ReShape Vest due to the closure or access limitations of facilities in Europe. In this down time, we have continued to work with the clinical investigators to ensure that once we get the green light to restart the study, our company and those sites will be prepared.”
Like many organizations at the start of the pandemic, ReShape management did all they could to make sure the company and their vision of helping as many people as possible to achieve better quality of life would survive. Now emerging from the other side with a Nasdaq listing and operating capital, they are doing all they can to make sure the company will thrive.
“I was walking through the office the other day, and I was welcoming back many dedicated team members and meeting people that we have hired over the past months for the first time. We have grown as an organization in so many ways over the past 18 months, and expanded our organization purposefully from new area sales and field marketing managers to regulatory and operations specialists,” he concluded. “We developed the strategy and implemented the groundwork early on to not only come through the pandemic, but to make sure that when the pandemic eased, we were ready as a focused and aligned organization to hit the ground running…and right now, we are!”