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Most Americans do not use GLP-1s long enough to see meaningful weight-loss

The largest study to date has reported that despite the explosion in demand for GLP-1s, 58% of patients discontinue use before reaching a clinically meaningful health benefit, according to research by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) and conducted by Blue Health Intelligence (BHI).

This large-scale study of commercial health plan data examined national pharmacy and medical claims data for treatment persistence patterns in the use of GLP-1s for weight management by members of Blue Cross Blue Shield Plans that covered these treatments. 

Based on data from nearly 170,000 commercial health plan members since the first FDA approval for a weight-loss GLP-1 in 2014, BHI’s assessment also found that 30% of patients discontinued use of the medications within the first month.

“When patients take medication, we want it to be safe and effective,” said Dr Razia Hashmi, Vice President of Clinical Affairs at BCBSA. “This study shows most people are unlikely to see lasting benefits.  Unfortunately, weight loss isn’t as simple as filling a prescription.”

In the US, seven out of ten adults and three out of ten children are overweight or are living with obesity. Making these medications available to all obese Americans at their current price could eventually cost over US$1 trillion per year.

According to the study conducted by BHI, most GLP-1 prescriptions came from primary care providers, but patients who received their prescriptions from an endocrinologist or obesity medicine specialist were more likely to stick with the treatment. Those who saw their doctor more often, regardless of provider specialty, were also more likely to continue with the treatment - emphasising the need for greater care management. 

BHI data indicates that patients facing the greatest socioeconomic barriers to health care, such as cost, transportation and language barriers were less likely to continue treatment, as were adults under age 35. But patients with coexisting conditions like peripheral vascular disease and diabetes - and particularly those with three or more such conditions - were more likely to continue.

“This study underscores how much more we have to learn about these medications,” said Kim Keck, president and CEO of BCBSA. “The science behind these drugs is moving faster than our ability to truly understand which patients will benefit, how to sustain their success and how to pay for them. If we don’t get it right, we will drive up costs for everyone with little to show for it.”



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