Make obesity medicine available to more people: doctors

AMSTERDAM - Medicines against obesity must be available to more people, obesity doctors said to newspaper AD. Too many people can't access these medicines, while losing weight can make them less susceptible to diseases like diabetes and heart problems, the doctors said. About 14 percent of Netherlands residents suffer from obesity.

The National Healthcare Institute approved the first medicine to treat obesity last month. The drug, Saxenda, reduces the feeling of hunger, among other things. The basic health insurance package reimburses the medicine for people with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher or with a BMI of 35 or higher with underlying health problems. The patients must also follow a special program in which they work on a healthier lifestyle with a lifestyle coach.

That is a very limited group, Maurits de Brauw, obesity surgeon at the Spaarne Gasthuis, said to AD. "It concerns about 650 people annually, while hundreds of thousands of people are overweight."

A healthy BMI is between 18 and 25. Ignace Janssen, medical director of the Dutch Obesity Clinic, thinks obesity medicine like Saxenda should be prescribed for people with a BMI from 27. "Patients have to change their lifestyle. That is not easy if you are constantly hungry. This medicine makes that easier," Janssen said to the newspaper.


But as insurance doesn't cover the medicine for them, they have to pay some 2,600 euros annually out of their own pocket. And not all patients can afford that. "The door is ajar, but an incredible number of people are missing out," Liesbeth van Rossum, internist-endocrinologist and professor of obesity at Erasmus MC, said to AD. "Being overweight leads to over 200 other diseases. It is better to tackle the source."

Mireille Serlie, professor and internist-endocrinologist at Amsterdam UMC, would also like to give more patients this option. "As you gain weight, the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease increases. It is imperative that effective medication is available to lose weight and inhibit further weight gain."

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