Weight-loss drugs are a milestone for the obese but expose health inequity

Weight-loss drugs are a milestone for the obese but expose health inequity

New medications result in much greater weight loss than previous drugs for slimming down.

People who struggle with weight are finding relief with drugs developed for diabetes. But access to the medications is revealing health-care inequities.

Rachel Graham has battled excess weight for years, cycling through trendy diets, various drugs, even bariatric surgery. Nothing worked for long. But last summer, she started a new medication, and today is 40 pounds lighter — and still shedding weight.

How To Get Mounjaro Prescription For Weight Loss

“It used to be that if I saw food, I would want to eat it,” said the 54-year-old Graham, who is 5-foot-7 and 190 pounds. “Now, if I have three or four bites of food, I don’t want to eat more.”

The drug she’s taking, Mounjaro by Eli Lilly, is part of a new crop of therapies that experts are hailing as a medical milestone — a long-sought way to transform the treatment of obesity, one of the nation’s most serious health threats.

Designed for diabetes but used for obesity at higher doses, the medications induce loss of 15 to 22 percent of body weight on average — more than enough to significantly reduce cardiovascular and other health risks. That makes them far superior to old-style diet pills that delivered smaller benefits along with nasty side effects such as high blood pressure and loose stools.

But during the past year, soaring demand for the drugs has ignited a mad scramble, exposing some of the most persistent problems in the nation’s health-care system, including supply shortages, high costs and health-care inequities.

Tensions are surging as patients with diabetes and those with weight problems sometimes compete for the same medications, which are self-administered in weekly injections. Some doctors worry that the drugs, which might have to be taken for life, will overshadow the need for lifestyle changes involving diet and exercise.

Zhaoping Li, a professor of medicine and chief of the division of clinical nutrition at the University of California at Los Angeles, said the new drugs represent important tools but are not a silver bullet.

“I don’t want people to lose their attention on the fundamental issue — we really need to help each individual have the best lifestyle for their bodies and themselves,” Li said.

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