5 Weight-Loss Counseling Points for Pharmacists

At the front lines of health care, pharmacists may be in a position to encourage obese patients to lose weight.

More than one-third of Americans are currently obese, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This obesity rate is a bump from 27.1% in 2013 and 25.5% in 2008, with no signs of slowing down.

At the front lines of health care, pharmacists may be in a position to encourage obese patients to lose weight.

Here are 5 counseling points pharmacists should consider:

1. Daily weigh-ins can help patients not only lose weight, but also keep the pounds off.

One low-cost and low-effort tool is the scale. In a recent study of 162 overweight individuals, those who received a scale and recorded their weight daily lost more pounds on average than the control group at the 1-year mark.

“Though for weight loss there is no 1 magic solution, daily self-weighing and tracking of one’s weight appears to be a behavior that can help some lose a small amount of weight and maintain this loss,” Carly Pacanowski, PhD, a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota, told Pharmacy Times.

2. Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers can produce significant weight loss with long-term efficacy.

While patients should choose a diet plan that works the best for them, one researcher identified Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers as programs that have demonstrated they can lead to significant weight loss and have long-term efficacy in multiple scientific studies.

Weight Watchers is relatively cheap and has been shown to help patients manage their weight beyond 1 year, while Jenny Craig is more expensive but can lead to a greater amount weight loss, according to the researchers.

“When pharmacists discuss weight loss with their patients, I think that it is important for them to consider all the available options,” Kimberly Gudzune, MD, MPH, assistant professor at the Johns

Hopkins University School of Medicine, told Pharmacy Times. “Some important aspects that they may want to consider would be whether the program has scientific evidence to prove that it works, as well as the costs, structure, and time commitment required with the program.”

Diet plans with very restricted caloric intake may lead to faster weight loss, but the evidence of their long-term abilities is lacking, Dr. Gudzune added.

Pharmacists can help raise awareness of obesity, especially among parents whose children are obese.

In a recent study, 95% of parents incorrectly indicated that their overweight child was about the right weight, and almost 80% said their obese child was about the right weight.

“Pharmacists can and should play a vital role in increasing the awareness of obesity in society as a whole,” senior study author Jian Zhang, MD, DrPH told Pharmacy Times. “Discussing body weight issues is also an effective way to build up a mutual trust between pharmacists and parents.”

4. Losing weight can help reduce the burden of obesity’s comorbidities.

Weight loss can have a dramatic, positive effect on an obese patient’s overall health. For instance, sustained weight loss may prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, improve obesity-related dyslipidemia, and lead to fewer sleep apnea events.

In general, weight loss also decreases mortality. One study found that patients with type 2 diabetes who lost about 20 to 30 pounds saw a 25% decrease in mortality compared with a control group that kept their weight stable.

5. Patients on weight-loss medications are successful if they lose around 5% to 10% of their body weight.

Pharmacists can help set realistic expectations for patients on weight-loss medications.

Jennifer L. Costello, PharmD, BCPS, BC-ADM, ambulatory care clinical pharmacist at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, told Pharmacy Times that participants in clinical trials usually saw an average loss of 5% to 10% of their body weight. Patients in the trials were also on calorie-restricted diets, and they were instructed to exercise for 150 minutes weekly.

Dr. Costello also advised that patients taking medication to manage their weight should stop the treatment if they see no results in 12 weeks.