“Access to drugs to treat obesity is bleak 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 insurance company covers weight loss drugs, most doctors don’t suggest the drugs and most patients don’t ask for them because they don’t realize there are good treatment options, said Dr. Scott Kahan, an obesity medicine specialist in Washington, D.C. And, he added, even when doctors and patients know there are FDA-approved drugs, many think they’re “unsafe or not well-studied and everyone will regain their weight.” “.
The medical system bears much of the blame, said Dr. Stanford. Only 1 percent of physicians in the United States are trained in obesity medicine. “It’s the greatest chronic disease of our time and nobody is learning about it,” she said.
Patient drug use data predates the newer, more effective, and safer drugs from Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly. Still, obesity drugs say they doubt the number has changed much from previous studies that found less than 1 percent of eligible people have received any of these drugs. That’s about the same percentage as those undergoing bariatric surgery, which most insurers, including Medicare, pay for.
“The perception is, ‘If you’re heavy, pull yourself out of your bootstraps and try harder,'” said Dr. kahan.
And that, he adds, is a perception many patients, as well as doctors, share that make them reluctant to seek medical help or receive prescription drugs.