FDA-Approved Weight Loss Medications Underutilized by Patients and Physicians

While a large amount of Americans have obesity, an astonishing percent do not take weight loss medication.

Over one-third of the United States adult population has obesity. Most people who have obesity choose to change some aspect of their life to become healthier.

Some patients choose to exercise, eat better, or even elect to have costly weight loss surgeries. For some reason, however, a majority of patients are not using medications that could boost their weight loss.

A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society suggests that many patients have not chosen to take weight loss medications that have been approved by the FDA.

To gather their data, researchers looked at electronic medical records from 2009 to 2013. This analysis showed that only 1.02% of the eligible 2 million patients received a weight loss medication.

Of the physicians prescribing the medication, researchers found that a small number were responsible for most of the prescribing of weight loss medications. The most commonly prescribed drug was phentermine, a generic and inexpensive drug that was only approved for a few months at the time of the study.

"We looked at how commonly weight loss medications were prescribed to patients for whom guidelines suggest this treatment would be appropriate," researcher Daniel Bessesen, MD, said in a press release. "It seems that despite the broad realization that obesity is a problem and that there are available FDA approved medications, few patients use this treatment option."

With most other diseases, medication is commonplace and always prescribed if the physician feels it is necessary. More research and studies will need to be conducted to reveal what makes obesity different in this aspect, the study concluded.

"In many other diseases like hypertension and diabetes, treatment with medications is common and considered standard practice," Bessesen said. "There remain many questions about why so few patients use weight loss medications."