Road Running Beside the Paris Ramparts

Sprinting in the Marathon of Obesity Treatment

It doesn’t take a genius to understand the futility of sprinting in a marathon. But it does seem to take some knowledge and insight to differentiate between the sprint of short-term weight loss and the marathon of obesity treatment. Right now that distinction matters because of a short supply of drugs that are medically necessary for obesity treatment and chatter about misusing them for short-term weight loss.

That sprinting mindset doesn’t work out well. A short course of an obesity med like semaglutide can yield short-term weight loss. But without long-term medical treatment, that weight comes right back. This is precisely why obesity is a chronic disease. It’s becoming very manageable with ongoing treatment.

However, a short course of therapy gives a person all the risks of an obesity medicine, without the long-term benefits. That’s because the most common side effects – nausea and other GI problems – are usually worst at the start of therapy.

A Convergence of Three Issues

The misunderstanding of obesity is creating quite a problem right now because of the convergence of three issues.

First is the tremendous medical need for these drugs, which are quite effective for treating obesity. This condition has become common, now affecting about 42 percent of the U.S. adult population. However, the number of folks with obesity that actually seek medical care for obesity is a much smaller subset of that very large number. The number of medical professionals who are ready and able to provide that care is also relatively small. Just as important is the fact that most people with obesity are still thinking of it as a DIY project. Popular culture tells them they ought to be able to lose weight on their own and keep it off.

So the number of people who step forward for serious medical treatment is more manageable – perhaps about four percent of the population – compared to the number of people with any degree of obesity.

The second issue is a supply chain problem. Almost every industry experienced such problems in the pandemic and pharma was no exception. It was worse for the maker of semaglutide because because they not only had a supply chain problem, but also the challenge of predicting demand for an obesity medicine with unprecedented effectiveness.

The third issue is coverage for obesity treatment by health insurance plans. Payers have never done this very well. However now, they are especially daunted now by large numbers of people clamoring to use this drug inappropriately for short-term weight loss. So obesity medicine physicians are now running into added resistance from insurers.

Moving Away from the Sprint

It will take time, but popular culture and medical professionals will have to move past the fundamental problem in this situation – focusing on a sprint for weight loss instead of the marathon of obesity treatment. It’s that focus on the sprint that prompts sensational reporting and buzz about misusing semaglutide and related meds for weight loss.

It adds to the problem of an inadequate supply of important drugs for obesity and diabetes.

Click here and here for more on this subject. For further perspective from the STOP Obesity Alliance, click here.

Road Running Beside the Paris Ramparts, painting by Vincent van Gogh / WikiArt

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December 2, 2022