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Study: Effective Medical Obesity Treatment Could Reduce Medicare Spending

Report suggests billions of dollars in potential savings (Mar. 25)

A new study has shown that effective medical treatment providing 10% to 15% weight loss could lead to significant improvements in Medicare spending by reversing or reducing major health consequences, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia, in obese or overweight patients. The study was published online in Health Economics Review.

“America’s weight problem is contributing to its spending problem,” said author Kenneth E. Thorpe, PhD. “Including anti-obesity medications that can achieve this level of efficacy in the Medicare benefits package will fill the gap between lifestyle changes alone and bariatric surgery. It could save billions in lifetime Medicare spending.”

“Obesity is a chronic condition that contributes to a number of comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension, which are costly to treat,” added W. Timothy Garvey, MD. “By targeting obesity as a key contributor to these conditions, we can improve patient outcomes and make a positive impact on the costs related to treating these comorbidities.”

The study suggests that 10% to 15% weight loss in obese and overweight people could produce gross per-capita savings ranging from approximately $6,000 to $13,000 over a 10-year period, depending on a variety of factors. Potential savings were even greater over a lifetime.

Collectively, among the estimated 11.2 million Medicare patients who are obese or overweight with at least one weight-related comorbidity, the lifetime savings could total in the billions of dollars, according to the report.

The study focused on weight loss achieved with Qsymia (phentermine and topiramate extended-release capsules, Vivus, Inc.) over a 2-year treatment period.

Sources: Vivus, Inc.; March 25, 2013; and Health Economics Review; March 25, 2013.

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