While it is becoming increasingly clear that the obesity epidemic is not an easily managed task, experts argue that more aggressive treatment approaches are needed. So when advice on lifestyle changes fail, how do clinicians go about managing obesity? A Medscape survey sought the answers.
The survey, composed by Medscape Editorial Director Christine Wiebe and Brunilda Nazario, associate medical director at WebMD, was completed by 1,414 U.S. medical professionals. In addition to various types of physicians, nurses and physician assistants were also included.
As might be suspected in this patient group, metabolic conditions such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes were found to be common. In spite of this, more than 40 percent of medical practitioners never offered their obese or overweight patients drugs for the management of the condition. Moreover, in the group that did prescribe drugs, only 24 to 30 percent of the patients were offered medical help, and a vast majority of patients were managed using advice on diet and exercise. Only about 13 percent of the patients were referred to weight-loss surgery.
Another rather alarming fact that emerged in the survey was that even among patients who do receive pharmacological help for obesity management, no more than 20 percent met treatment goals.
This might be linked to the fact that clinicians reported that a lack of willingness to follow treatment plans is the biggest challenge in obesity management. The second most frequently stated answer was that there is a lack of effective treatment options.
The survey also zoomed in on the reasons why practitioners do not prescribe weigh-loss drugs. This question targeted the group that stated they had never chosen drugs as an option in obesity management. The reasons varied, but almost 70 percent stated they preferred patients to focus on diet, exercise, or behavioral therapy. In addition, non-prescribers worried about the safety and side effects of the drugs.
It became clear that the group of non-prescribers generally lacked information and treatment guidelines on pharmacological obesity management. Most of those surveyed said that convincing clinical trials, prescription guidelines, as well as advice surrounding side effects management could possibly make them change their prescription habits.
The survey paints a rather pessimistic picture of weight loss management today. Considering the results, more research on how to motivate patients to follow weight loss programs – whether they’re medical or composed of lifestyle changes – seems desperately needed.
To access the complete results of the survey, please visit this link.