A new drug for weight loss could change the obesity game for Louisiana. But how much does it cost? | Health / Hospitals

Earlier this month, a session was special as thousands of health workers and scientists gathered for a conference on diabetes in New Orleans. Researchers have described a new drug that can help someone lose more than 20% of their body weight, which is equivalent to losing an average of 52 pounds in a year and a half.

“This is a new era in the treatment of obesity,” Dr. said. One of the authors of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is Ania Jastreboff. Conclusions Ernest N. The morale was greeted with applause and heated questions by the participants at the convention center.

Evidence for tirzepatide and other semaglutide drugs is promising. And studies show that treating obesity reduces the risk of other costly health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. But in a country where 38% of people are fourth in the country with obesity, the big question is: who will pay for it?

“These drugs – semaglutide and tirzepatide – have given us the kind of weight loss we used to get only with bariatric surgery. The weight loss is amazing,” said Candida Rebello, a researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. you can’t buy these drugs. “

Although doctors treat obesity as a disease, the availability of expensive drugs for weight loss is still insufficient. Tirzepatid, produced by Eli Lilly, is likely to cost between $ 1,000 and $ 1,500 a month, and insurance companies don’t cover much of that, Rebello said.

“Insurance companies have not yet arrived”

Medications for weight loss are usually classified as top-notch medications under insurance plans, Rebello said, adding them to lifestyle medications like Viagra. Some private insurance companies can cover up to 50% of the cost, but $ 750 is still not enough for those who need it most. According to Rebello, people with low socio-economic status are overweight.

Louisiana’s Medicaid plan does not allow for the replacement of medications for weight loss, but it does include tirzepatide for diabetes, which is allowed to be treated.

Blue Cross Blue Shield, which provides health insurance for most Louisiana groups ’plans, said tirzepatide coverage will depend on the member’s plan. But the spokesman also said most of the company’s health plans do not include weight loss medications or bariatric surgery. A health promotion program that offers coaching and weight education is available for free, the company said.

But such programs are usually not successful. Diet and exercise studies show a 5% reduction in weight loss, rarely leading to weight gain for obese patients. Many people try to lose weight, but evidence shows that a lack of willpower is the key to success. The way the body regulates weight loss changes in some people, making it very difficult to lose weight and maintain weight.

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“Insurance companies have not yet reached where science is,” the doctor said. Tanya de Silva, General and Program Director for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Program at LSU Center for Health Sciences.

Before it happened

Medications have historically affected the lower effects of obesity: diabetes, kidney, nerve, and eye damage. But what if, instead, medications prevent the diagnosis of diabetes and even rule it out?

“Obesity is a major driver of the pathology we see in type 2 diabetes itself, and if we can use our new agents to significantly lose weight, we could also have a remission of diabetes,” de Silva said.

Doing so prolongs the patient’s life and reduces the risk of heart disease, which is №1. 1 cause of death in the country. Louisiana has the fifth highest death toll from cardiovascular disease in the United States, and many Louisiana residents are surprised at the best time of their lives.

According to another study published at the conference, in 2021, patients taking semaglutide approved for the treatment of diabetes under the Wegovy brand halved the stage of cardiometabolic disease, which measures the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Contestants lost almost 17% of their body weight.

The drugs mimic intestinal hormones called GLP-1 and GIP and work by feeding people faster. They also believe that it targets appetite-related receptors in the brain and works to increase insulin secretion in the pancreas, depending on the amount of glucose in the body.

Now tirzepatide is sold under the Mounjaro brand, approved only for type 2 diabetes. Researchers hope to approve it for weight loss after clinical trials show significant results at high doses. There were some side effects, such as dizziness and diarrhea, and the drug should be injected even once a week after a weight loss plate, the researchers told the conference. If patients do not change their lifestyle, they will still be able to “take the medicine,” de Silva said. So it may not work for everyone.

But it is an important weapon in a much-needed country – if people can afford it.

“The effective use of these drugs to improve outcomes for our patients would ultimately be a huge savings,” de Silva said. “But someone has to pay for it in advance.”

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