KFF Survey: Curious About Obesity Meds, Daunted by Obesity

Consciousness of Chaos Arose from the AbyssOn Friday, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) released remarkably detailed results from a survey of public awareness and beliefs about new obesity medicines. It offers much for us to think about. But at the very top line it puts some solid numbers on a basic fact about the public response to breakthrough medicines for obesity. People are quite curious about these medicines, interested in taking them for weight loss, but daunted by the reality that they are serious medicines for obesity.

Nearly half (45 percent) of all adults express interest in taking these medicines if they are safe and effective. But more than two-thirds of them say no thanks when told that a person has to keep taking these medicines to maintain the weight loss benefit.

Most people are simply not ready to face the fact that obesity is a chronic disease. Weight loss? Lots of people are ready to sign up. Obesity care? Bummer. It makes their heads hurt to think about it.

1,327 U.S. Adults

KFF conducted this research with a representative sample of 1,327 U.S. adults in July. Though we know that about 75 percent of adults fall into the range of overweight or obesity, only 41 percent of the respondents to this survey had ever heard this from a healthcare provider.

This survey covered a lot of ground. A number of questions dealt with beliefs about the pharmaceutical industry. How trustworthy are these companies? For new and effective drugs, people view them favorably. For fair prices, not so much.

But the big headlines out of this study are all about the keen public interest in new obesity medicines.

Plenty of Obstacles

Make no mistake about it, there are plenty of obstacles for people with an interest in these drugs. For one thing, most people do not like the idea of an injection. As a weekly injection, roughly half of those who expressed interest in these medicines were not interested. Denial of coverage by health insurance was an even bigger turnoff.

But the biggest obstacle was the reality that these medicines stop working when a person stops taking them.

Obesity Medicines, Not Weight Loss Miracles

There’s an important lesson here. For policy makers, health insurers, employers, health reporters, and ultimately the public, it is a basic fact about these medicines. They offer remarkable effectiveness for long-term treatment of the complex chronic disease of obesity. Weight loss miracles? Not at all.

Most people can’t handle the truth. Sensational stories about miracles and redemption capture the imagination, the clicks, and the dollars. It’s all noise and no substance.

But for those who are curious about these medicines and not daunted by the acknowledgment of obesity, this is where the value lies. The growing range of obesity medicines offers great new possibilities for long-term obesity care. This is a big advance.

Click here for the survey details, here, here, and here for more reporting on it.

Consciousness of Chaos Arose from the Abyss, lithograph by Odilon Redon / WikiArt

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


August 6, 2023