Are Clinicians Reluctant to Prescribe Weight Loss Drugs?

Charles P. Vega, MD


July 16, 2018

Hello. I'm Dr Charles Vega, and I am a clinical professor of family medicine at the University of California at Irvine. Welcome to Medscape Morning Report, our 1-minute news story for primary care.

Medscape surveyed almost 1300 healthcare professionals, including primary care physicians, endocrinologists, and obstetricians/gynecologists, about the management of obese and overweight patients and found major differences in prescribing patterns across specialties.

The survey also found that despite seeing a relatively high number of obese patients, the use of weight loss medications is not common. Only 58% of healthcare professionals prescribe weight loss medications to obese or overweight patients. Endocrinologists are the most likely to use these agents, at 85%. However, older agents tend to be preferred even though newer agents may be more effective. The most commonly prescribed weight loss drug is generic phentermine, even though it is only approved for short-term use.

Half of those who do prescribe obesity drugs typically do so only if lifestyle modifications fail. Less than 15% of providers recommend bariatric surgery to patients who actually qualify according to guidelines.

Obesity remains a crisis, yet weight loss medications are being underutilized.


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