3 Factors Keeping Americans From New Weight-Loss Drugs

The Latest

A national survey released on Friday by KFF, a nonprofit organization focused on health policy, has found that Americans long for safe and effective drugs for weight loss. But the more they learn about new drugs like Wegovy that are transforming obesity treatment, the more their enthusiasm fades.

The survey found that 59 percent of people who were trying to lose weight said they were interested in taking a safe and effective drug. But only 23 percent remained interested when asked if they would take such a drug if it had to be injected. And just 16 percent were still interested if their insurance would not pay for the drug. The list price of the drugs is about $1,300 a month.

When they heard they would regain their lost weight it they stopped taking the drug, interest declined to 14 percent.

“People always want that magic pill,” said Ashley Kirzinger, director of survey methodology at KFF. “There is no magic.”

The survey was conducted in July online and by telephone with a representative sample of 1,327 U.S. adults.

A Statistic That Sums It Up: 15 percent.

That’s the median weight loss experienced by people who take Wegovy, a drug from Novo Nordisk.

The new drugs are the first truly effective obesity medicines. They act by stemming people’s appetites and cravings for food. Many patients started by taking Ozempic, a diabetes drug also by Novo Nordisk that led to weight loss as a side effect. But many more patients are asking for Wegovy, which is approved for obesity. Mounjaro, made by Eli Lilly and approved for treating diabetes, is expected to be approved soon for obesity. People taking it lose a median of 20 percent of their body weight.

Background: Attitudes about obesity and the drugs are shifting.

Obesity is a chronic disease that can result in diabetes and other conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea and joint problems.

But it was so difficult to treat obesity that many doctors and patients had all but given up.

Dr. David A. D’Alessio, director of endocrinology at Duke University and a member of Eli Lilly’s scientific advisory board, said he had resisted starting a weight-loss clinic at his university. Patients who are told to diet and exercise “get defeated over and over again,” he said.

Now, he said, he has changed his mind.

The shifts in attitude about obesity can also be seen in the KFF survey, said Dr. Ania Jastreboff, an endocrinologist and obesity-medicine specialist at Yale University and a consultant for the makers of the new drugs. After decades of hearing that losing weight was just a matter of exerting willpower, most of the public is intensely interested in medical treatments.

“Previously,” she said, “that was not the case.”

What’s Next: New drugs and methods.

Obesity-medicine specialists say new drugs that are even more powerful than Wegovy and Mounjaro are going to change prospects for people with obesity in a way that has eluded researchers for decades.

While price and insurance coverage pose problems for patients, health economists expect prices to come down as more drugs are approved and companies face competition. Private insurers are also being pressured to pay; for now, many do not. Medicare is forbidden by law to pay for weight-loss drugs, although there is an intense lobbying effort to change that.

While the KFF survey showed that many potential patients resisted injection, the delivery of the drug with a thin, short needle is quick and easy, said Dr. Robert F. Kushner, an obesity-medicine specialist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“In my experience, people find a weekly self-injection OK since it takes less than one minute and is a lot easier than they thought,” said Dr. Kushner, who is on the advisory board for Novo Nordisk.

Some companies are also studying an oral version of the medications.

Gina Kolata writes about science and medicine. She has twice been a Pulitzer Prize finalist and is the author of six books, including “Mercies in Disguise: A Story of Hope, a Family’s Genetic Destiny, and The Science That Saved Them.” More about Gina Kolata

Source: Read Full Article