Meta- and cost-effectiveness analysis of commercial weight loss strategies


  • Funding agency: Vivus, Inc.

  • Disclosures: Eric Finkelstein has been a paid consultant for Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Takeda, Orexigen, and Vivus, Inc. Eliza Kruger has no conflicts of interest.

  • Author contributions: EF conceived the study. EK performed the literature search and data analysis. Both authors reviewed studies for inclusion, were involved in data interpretations and writing the article and had final approval of the submitted version.



To estimate the incremental cost-effectiveness of clinically proven nonsurgical commercial weight loss strategies for those with BMIs between 25 and 40.


We performed a systematic literature review to identify randomized controlled trials of commercially available weight loss studies of at least 1 year in duration. Using the results of these trials and publicly available cost data, we quantified the incremental cost per kilogram of weight loss and per quality adjusted life year (QALY) gained. We then use probabilistic sensitivity analyses to quantify uncertainty in our results.


Based on the literature review, two lifestyle programs (Weight Watchers and Vtrim), one meal replacement program (Jenny Craig), and three pharmaceutical products (Qsymia, Lorcaserin, and Orlistat) were included in the analysis. Average cost per kilogram of weight lost ranged from $155 (95% CI: $110-$218) for Weight Watchers to $546 (95% CI: $390-$736) for Orlistat. The incremental cost per QALY gained for Weight Watchers and Qsymia was $34,630 and $54,130, respectively. All other interventions were prohibitively expensive or inferior in that weight loss could be achieved at a lower cost through one or a combination of the other strategies.


Results suggest that, in the absence of other considerations and at current market prices, Weight Watchers and Qsymia represent the two most cost-effective strategies for nonsurgical weight loss.