Obesity Fact #8: Obesity Drugs Can Help Some Patients

sharma-obesity-medicationsObesity Fact #8 from the New England Journal of Medicine paper on obesity myths, presumptions and facts, states simply that,

“Some pharmaceutical agents can help patients achieve clinically meaningful weight loss and maintain the reduction as long as the agents continue to be used.”

While it is no secret that the history of obesity medications has been rather disappointing (not to say disastrous), with the few meds available (largely in the US), a relevant proportion of patients do achieve clinically meaningful weight loss, which they can hope to maintain for as long as they stay on these medications.

This need for long-term use is no different for medications than for the use of diets or other interventions – when interventions stop (and this includes reversal of bariatric surgery), weight comes back – no surprise here.

The authors further qualify their statement by adding,

“While we learn how to alter the environment and individual behaviors to prevent obesity, we can offer moderately effective treatment to obese persons.”

I might have worded this slightly differently, because irrespective of whether we manage to change the environment or behaviours to prevent obesity, we will always need to offer effective treatments to obese persons – these have always been and will always be around, no matter how effective our preventions measures.

As I have said before, people struggling with the health impacts of excess weight deserve effective treatments in the same manner that we offer treatments to people with other chronic health conditions – anything less is simply weight-bias and discrimination.

Sadly, the range of effective and safe medications we can use for treating obesity remains limited, which in itself may well in part be a reflection of weight-bias and discrimination – but I’ll save that discussion for another post.

Edmonton, AB