Obesity kills over 4 mn in US annually; safe, underutilised treatments can help: New findings


PTI, Oct 27, 2021, 9:05 AM IST

Source: unsplash

According to new findings, safe and non-invasive obesity treatments that are underutilized can help fight the obesity epidemic in the US which kills over four million people annually. According to a new manuscript published in the Endocrine Society’s journal, Endocrine Reviews, nearly half of the adults and 20 per cent of the children in the United States have obesity, yet doctors are underprescribing effective weight loss medications and many patients are not receiving the treatment they need.

”The weight stigma that exists in healthcare settings makes people with obesity hesitant to seek care until comorbidities develop and reach a dangerous stage. Lack of insurance coverage and cost issues are other factors that create barriers to obesity treatment,” the manuscript said.

”Obesity is the epidemic crisis of our time. The disease leads to serious comorbidities such as diabetes, fatty liver disease, and cardiovascular disease and significantly shortens a person’s length and quality of life,” said Christos S Mantzoros, MD, ScD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

Until recently, it was not understood what are the genetic and hormonal causes of obesity and how obesity leads to these comorbidities, Mantzoros said. ”We have recently started to understand the causes of obesity in humans which is a big discovery that has led to designing effective therapies.” In the article, the researchers map out molecular and hormonal pathways that lead to obesity and its related comorbidities. This data gives the researchers the insights they need to design, test and implement new obesity therapies.

The researchers highlight the need for safer and more effective obesity therapies, including new drug delivery systems, vaccines, modulation of the gut microbiome and gene therapy. Novel medications, including combinations of gastrointestinal hormones and other molecules, are being tested and are expected to lead to significant percentages of weight loss with less side effects once available. As the understanding of obesity improves, more effective medications with fewer side effects will be developed, according to the new findings.

Recently approved medications such as semaglutide, a modified gastrointestinal hormone administered once a week, can lead to 15 per cent weight loss when combined with lifestyle changes, while bariatric surgery can lead to up to 40 per cent weight loss, but it is invasive and linked to complications, according to the findings.

”Insurance companies need to pay attention to data from studies and the scientific progress we are making and start covering the medications that are and will be approved soon, given that currently only a small minority of patients with obesity have coverage for the medications and medical care they need,” Mantzoros said.

”It would be much more cost effective to cover treatments early instead of waiting for comorbidities and their complications to develop,” Mantzoros added.

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