weight loss programs
July 25, 2014

The Most Effective Weight-Loss Programs And Drugs

Rayshell Clapper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Obesity is a problem in America and around the world. Obesity-caused illness have plagued healthcare systems worldwide. Some of these illnesses include diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illnesses, joint issues, and gastrointestinal problems.

Employers and third-party payers (such as health insurance companies) have started to look at ways to help lower healthcare costs for obesity-related issues by looking into coverage for commercial weight loss programs, according to a recent study from researchers with Duke Medicine.

The study was conducted at Duke-National University of Singapore (DUS) Graduate Medical School by Dr. Erik Finkelstein and research assistant Eliza Kruger who looked into six commercial weight loss programs to analyze their costs and effectiveness.

They studied three diet and lifestyle plans (Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and VTrim) and three prescription diet medications (Qsymia, Lorcaserin and Orlistat).

"Weight loss was measured in terms of absolute change in kilograms lost compared to a control group in which patients underwent a low cost/low intensity intervention, or a placebo in the case of the pharmaceutical trials," the researchers explained in a recent statement. They did not look at meal replacement products nor did they include weight-loss surgery. What they found in the diet and lifestyle plans and prescription diet medications was Weight Watchers and Qsymia proved the best value for the money.

Their studies focused on expected annual costs, average weight loss at one year (in kilograms), average cost per a kilogram lost, and quality adjusted life year (QALY). Here is a breakdown of the data for each:

Those areas with 'no data provided' simply mean the researchers did not have the data, but the full study likely does.

Based on the findings above, Finkelstein and Kruger determined that Weight Watchers provided the best results for the cost in the diet and lifestyle plan category while Qsymia did so for the prescription diet medication category. For all the others considered in the study, the additional weight loss came at a much higher price, thus the researchers concluded that the third-party payers would be less likely to cover them.

Finkelstein added, “Although containing rising rates of obesity is a public health imperative, employers and third-party payers remain hesitant to sink big money into commercial weight loss strategies...But looking at cost per weight lost or QALY saved, Weight Watchers looked best because it’s the least expensive. Qsymia also showed good value for money because the additional weight loss came at a fairly low cost. To remain competitive, the other programs will either need to up the benefits and/or reduce costs, perhaps through cost-sharing or via other incentive strategies.”

This data is helpful to more than just employers and third-party payers; it also helps those wondering about personal cost benefits for the different programs and medications. Through this, those who battle weight issues or have obesity-caused illnesses can see just how much each plan or medication costs and the average weight loss to be expected from each.

For the complete findings, see the June issue of the journal Obesity.

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