Are weight loss drugs overhyped?

The headlines stated that Lilly’s new weight loss pill provided exceptional clinical trial results. Still, we must determine whether patients exercised and followed a diet while taking the product. I had a chance to review some results of a recent ad board, which indicated that there may be some troubling trends behind the hype.

Advisory Boards can give you some good feedback from HCPs on treatment options, and what I heard alarmed me.

The topic of the ad boards was weight loss drugs and patient adherence. I expected to hear that many people were asking for/about the drugs, but I instead heard stories of patients who experienced moderate/severe GI side effects. Some said their patients had stopped taking the medications because they feared the GI side effects. Number one was diarrhea and camps so bad they were afraid to leave the house. One physician relayed a patient’s story of going to a virtual online meeting to run to the bathroom because the cramps “were horrible.”

I thought I would hear issues around the price and lack of insurance coverage, but that barely came up. The physicians were also concerned that the drugs were “overpromising” and that patients didn’t understand how to manage using the pills, expressly a lower fat diet and increasing exercise. Although weight loss drugs are supposed to limit appetite, one HCP relayed how a patient had severe GI symptoms after eating a piece of birthday cake.

By far, the biggest concern in the ad boards was the “reliance” on these drugs for losing weight. As we repeatedly heard, “they do nothing to change behaviors.” One patient had last 44 pounds after using one of the drugs for six months and stopped taking Wegovy only to gain most of it back.

So what’s going on?

1ne: The hype curve is accelerating. This is particularly true because Wall Street sees big profits in these drugs with an obese population.

2wo: Follow-up studies will be needed to determine how long most patients use these drugs and the percentage who are experiencing gastric side effects.

3hree: Obesity is a massive issue for our healthcare, but this writer believes that prescription medications are not the answer for the majority. The message around diet and exercise to control obesity needs to be communicated.

We all know what severe GI side effects feel like. Would you risk having these side effects, which may limit where you can travel? Imagine being stuck in traffic and having to go to the bathroom urgently.

We need more input from physicians and less from Wall Street’s media machine.