“Access to medicine for the treatment of obesity is very poor in this country,” said Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
But even if a patient’s insurer covers weight loss medications, most doctors do not recommend medications and most patients do not ask for them because they fail to understand that there are good treatment options, says Dr. Scott Kahn, an obesity pharmacologist in Washington. , DC and, he added, even if doctors and patients know that there are FDA-approved drugs, many feel they are “unsafe or well-studied and everyone is regaining their weight.”
Dr. Stanford said the medical system is largely responsible. Only 1 percent of doctors in the United States are trained in obesity medicine. “It’s the biggest chronic disease of our time, and nobody’s learning anything about it,” he said.
Patient drug usage data predicts new, more effective and safer drugs created by Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly. However, obesity medicine doctors say they suspect that the number has changed significantly from previous studies which show that less than 1 percent of those eligible are taking one of these drugs. This is about the same percentage of people who undergo bariatric surgery, for which most insurers, including Medicare, pay.
“The idea is, ‘If you’re heavy, pull yourself out of your bootstrap and try harder,'” Dr. Kahan said.
And this, he adds, is a perception shared by many patients, as well as physicians, which makes them reluctant to take medical help or prescription medications.