As a leading weight loss surgery practice, many patients with varying degrees of obesity visit us to understand more about their weight loss options beyond diet and exercise. Most patients have tried many options to improve their health and reduce their weight with little success. They are typically frustrated and looking for a more permanent solution. Bariatric surgery has traditionally been one of the few options for patients looking to lose significant weight over the long term when other options have not proven successful. Today, however, many patients have heard of and are exploring diabetes management (Ozempic® & MounjaroTM) and weight loss (Wegovy®) drugs that have taken over the news headlines.
You will have heard of the diabetes drug Ozempic, which has been on the market since 2017. While this drug is indicated for diabetes management, it has also shown exceptional effectiveness as a weight loss catalyst. It has recently been prescribed off-label to such a degree that we now have worldwide shortages. The same drug manufacturer also applied for and was ultimately approved to sell a higher dosage version of Ozempic known as Wegovy as a weight loss drug for qualifying patients 12 and older with obesity. Patients on Wegovy have seen upwards of a 15% reduction in total body weight. Because of this, these drugs have been featured in news and lifestyle articles across the Internet and in print.
Are Weight Loss Drugs for Everyone?
Unfortunately, while the sensational headlines make it seem like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro are a cure-all, this is not true.
- The drugs offer significant appetite suppression, but this also comes with the possibility of reduced muscle mass, as many patients do not consume the proper nutrition needed to maintain normal bodily function.
- These drugs are only effective as long as they are taken. While we do not yet know the potential rebound effect once patients stop these drugs, we know from other medical interventions that without long-term lifestyle change, regain is likely.
- It’s important to remember that insurance is unlikely to cover these drugs indefinitely, and out-of-pocket costs can be significant. A new class of oral medications with similar albeit slightly lower weight loss results will hit the market relatively soon and should have a lower cost basis. However, they will only be effective as long as they are taken.
- As with any drug, there are potential side effects that may be problematic in some patients.
- Finally, these drugs are unsuitable for patients with very high BMIs. While most will lose significant weight, very high BMI patients will likely not lose enough to sufficiently improve or resolve their comorbidities.
Other Considerations of These Weight Loss Drugs
While weight loss may seem easy while taking these medications, it’s critically important that patients change their dietary and exercise habits permanently during this time. We know from experience with the gastric balloon, for example, that once the catalyst for weight loss has been removed, patients who have not made appropriate changes will regain weight, sometimes rebounding to new highs. This is a serious concern for the future.
Does this make weight loss medication? Bad? Absolutely not! There is a place for these interventions, typically in highly motivated obese patients with relatively lower BMIs. Of course, this needs to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Is There a Place for Weight Loss Medication After Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric surgery is currently the only long-term weight loss option for patients suffering from severe obesity. This remains the case even with these weight loss drugs on the market. However, there may be a place for these drugs for patients needing help improving or maintaining their weight loss after a bariatric procedure. Postoperative bariatric life is difficult, and patients must maintain their lifestyle changes and motivations. Sometimes this is easier said than done, and weight loss medications may be very helpful in assisting them to get back on track or chief their goals.
Are Weight Loss Drugs the Easy Way Out?
One of the most challenging misconceptions in bariatric surgery is that some consider the procedure the easy way out. However, anyone who knows someone who has had weight loss surgery likely understands this is not the case. Bariatric surgery, as with any weight loss, requires incredible dedication and motivation. The same is true for these weight loss drugs. They should not be seen as a magic bullet but rather a jump-start toward new health through weight loss.
We are a comprehensive weight loss program, meaning that bariatric surgery is not the only solution that we offer our patients. If we believe our patients would benefit from weight loss medication, such as Wegovy, we will discuss those options. Most importantly, patients should visit a practice with several weight loss options available to them to fully examine the pros and cons of each.
We look forward to seeing you at our office and discussing the option of weight loss medication or bariatric surgery, depending on your circumstance. We encourage you to ask about the following when visiting us:
- How long will insurance cover weight loss medication, and how much will it cost to pay out of pocket?
- What lifestyle changes will I need to make to ensure long-term success with weight loss medications?
- With my BMI, does it make more sense to take medications or consider bariatric surgery?
- What success trends have you seen in patients taking weight loss medications?
- What are the common concerns and issues you have seen in patients taking weight loss medications?
- What is my long-term cost of weight loss medications versus bariatric surgery, both with and without my insurance coverage?
You can ask these and any other questions of us at your consultation. Our helpful billing staff has worked with thousands of other patients to help them understand their coverages and what to expect from a financial perspective on the medical and surgical front. We look forward to seeing you and assisting with your weight loss needs.