A new class of weight-loss drugs has proven to be safe and highly effective, yet adoption is limited due to a lack of coverage by insurance companies, and for those that can afford them, a massive shortage is hampering availability.
With over 70 percent of adults in the US categorized as overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), effective weight loss medications can be life-changing. Obesity leads to other life-threatening medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.
A new class of weight loss drugs are not only safe, but have proven to be highly effective, and are offering hope for losing excess pounds to patients suffering from obesity while improving overall health.
Mounting evidence shows that the drugs don’t have the dangerous side effects that were a problem with the older class of weight-loss medications, NBC reports.
The drugs work by mimicking a hormone produced in the gut called GLP-1, which tells the pancreas to secrete more insulin to control blood sugar.
Doctors have already used such drugs to treat type 2 diabetes for years. Then doctors began to notice that the patients using the drugs lost weight. Drugmakers then began formulating versions of the drugs specifically designed to treat obesity.
Two of the new drugs, Saxenda and Wegovy, both from drugmaker Novo Nordisk, have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
A newer GLP-1 medication called tirzepatide appears to be even more effective. Patients lost over 20 percent of their weight over 72 weeks, according to a new study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Doctors caution these drugs are not a magic bullet and, like most medications, there are side effects, which include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Still, compared to the older class of weight loss medicines these are more effective with fewer complications.
While millions of Americans are eligible to take these game-changing weight-loss medications, relatively few are for a variety of reasons, say doctors.
Like so many things, the first obstacle is money. One of the drugs called Wegovy costs about $1,300 a month, and most insurance doesn’t cover it.
“There are individuals who will have a significant amount of weight loss” from these drugs, he said, but they can’t take them because they’re unaffordable,” said Dr. W. Scott Butsch, the director of obesity medicine at the Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute. He added some doctors are hesitant to prescribe the medication knowing that, due to cost, “there’s already an up-front barrier.”
But even for those who can afford the cost out-of-pocket, like so many things in America currently, there is a shortage. Drug manufacturer Novo Nordisk is telling doctors not to prescribe Wegovy to new patients because it doesn’t have the supply available to meet the demand.