Why do we need drugs to treat the patient with obesity?

Authors


Abstract

Objective:

Obesity is a public health problem, which increases the risk of chronic diseases and mortality. Weight loss can reduce mortality and improve most of the detrimental health consequences of obesity.

Design and Methods:

This paper was developed from two presentations to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has responsibility for reviewing and approving drugs to treat obesity.

Results:

A weight loss of 5% or more is sufficient to significantly reduce health risks in individuals with impaired glucose tolerance, hypertension, or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Slightly more weight loss (16% on average, achieved by surgery) reduces mortality. The goal of medicating for obesity is to help more patients achieve more weight loss. A barrier to drug approval has been the concern that weight loss medications might be used by individuals with little or no health risks, thus mandating a low side effect profile for approval of any drug. This limits the options for patients who have obesity-related health problems that could improve with weight loss. Recently the FDA signaled interest in identifying health benefits in higher risk patients that might justify medications with higher risk; however, the potential impact on a large segment of the population has led the FDA to consider requiring a cardiovascular outcome trial for all obesity medications, either prior to or after approval.

Conclusion:

This review argues that drugs are needed for obesity because they enhance behaviorally induced weight loss and that new medications for obesity are needed in the approval process.

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