Uptake of Obesity Medications Lacking

Drugs that treat diabetes are prescribed significantly more than antiobesity medications.

A recent study found that physicians are not prescribing antiobesity medications nearly as much as they are prescribing antidiabetics.

It is well known that obesity increases the risk for certain diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. The duration of obesity and overweight can also increase cancer risk, especially in women.

Intensity of obesity was also shown to increase the risk of cancer up to 37%, a recent study found. A high body mass index is a significant risk factor in developing diabetes as well, as approximately 90% of patients with obesity or who are overweight develop the condition.

“Given the close tie between obesity and type 2 diabetes, treating obesity should be an obvious first step for healthcare providers to prevent and treat diabetes,” said lead investigator Catherine E. Thomas, MS. “By treating obesity, we may be able to decrease the number of patients with type 2 diabetes, among other related diseases and the medications used to treat them.”

In a study published by Obesity, investigators examined data from the IMS Health National Prescription Audit and Xponent databases, from 2012 to 2015, to determine prescribing trends. Besides insulin, prescriptions for antidiabetics were 15 times higher than antiobesity medications.

There are currently 6 antiobesity medications that have received FDA approval. However, these drugs are only being used by 2% of the eligible population, which is 46% of the US adult population, according to the study.

Investigators found multiple barriers in accessing antiobesity medications, such as the lack of reimbursement for providers, limited time to discuss the option during office visits, lack of training, and competing demands. Family medicine, general practitioners, internal medicine clinicians, and endocrinologists were most likely to prescribe the obesity treatment, according to the study.

Treating patients with obesity who have not developed diabetes is an important prevention factor, and can lead to better patient health and lower costs.

“A greater urgency in the treatment of obesity -- on the part of clinicians and patients -- is essential,” said Thomas. “We're talking about prolonged and better quality of life for patients.”