Diabetes medication prescribed 15 times more than obesity drugs

As obesity remains one of the biggest risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, prevention methods through medication seem to be lagging behind those prescribed for patients who have already developed diabetes.

Healthcare providers prescribe anti-diabetes medications, excluding insulin, 15 times more than those for obesity, according to research from Cornell University.

The study, published in the journal Obesity, looked at data from the IMS Health National Prescription Audit and Xponent that included the prescribing trends for anti-diabetes and anti-obesity medication from 2012-2015.                                                                

"Given the close tie between obesity and type 2 diabetes, treating obesity should be an obvious first step for healthcare providers to prevent and treat diabetes," said Catherine E. Thomas, MS, the lead researcher from Weill Medical College at Cornell University, in a statement. "By treating obesity, we may be able to decrease the number of patients with type 2 diabetes, among other related diseases and the medications used to treat them."

There are six anti-obesity medications on the market that have been approved by the FDA, but only 2 percent of the eligible 46 percent of adults in the U.S. are prescribed these medications.

A number of reasons contribute to why anti-obesity medications aren’t prescribed often including a lack of reimbursement for healthcare providers and small windows of time to interact and counsel patients who would qualify. Providers who prescribe anti-obesity drugs most are often general practitioners, internal medicine clinicians and endocrinologists.

Experts say treating obesity should be more of a priority for providers and used as a way to prevent diabetes from developing in patients to begin with.

"Obesity is a serious disease that is not getting serious treatment," said Charles Billington, MD, FTOS, former president and spokesperson for the Obesity Society and Director of Medical Weight Management at the University of Minnesota, in a statement. "We are missing the opportunity among patients with serious obesity-related illness to provide the full range of proven, safe and effective therapies. It's time to start treating people with obesity as we would others with chronic diseases—with compassion and access to evidence-based care in a clinical setting."