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Weight loss drugs not just being used by those to treat chronic conditions, survey finds

Young people are more likely to use the medicine strictly for weight loss purposes.
Donna Cooper
Posted at 1:13 PM, May 20, 2024

A new KFF survey found that about 1 in 8 Americans have used GLP-1 agonist drugs, with most saying they have used them to treat a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease.

But there were plenty of people who used the drugs not for treating a chronic disease. The report found that about 4 in 10 were using the drugs mainly to lose weight.

According to KFF, 39% said they use a GLP-1 agonist to primarily treat a chronic health condition. An additional 23% use the drugs for both treating a chronic health condition and to lose weight. A remaining 38% said they mainly used the drugs to lose weight.

These drugs were initially prescribed to help manage Type 2 diabetes but have since gained popularity to help patients manage weight. Popular brands include Wegovy, Ozempic, Rybelusus and Saxenda

Donna Cooper holds up a dosage of Wegovy, a drug used for weight loss.

Health

So, you've lost weight using Wegovy. Does that mean you can stop taking it?

AP via Scripps News
2:33 PM, May 01, 2024

According to the Cleveland Clinic, these drugs help manage blood sugar levels by triggering insulin release from the pancreas. They also help slow digestion, which causes less glucose to enter the bloodstream. The medicine also affects satiety, allowing patients to feel full after eating.

The survey found that more young people are more likely to use the medicine for weight loss purposes, while older Americans tend to use them for chronic disease. Americans ages 18-29 using GLP-1 agonist for weight loss was more than twice the number of those using the medicine for chronic diseases. Meanwhile, those over age 65 were about three times more likely to use the drugs for chronic disease instead of just weight loss.

One possible reason for that is Medicare does not cover the drug if it's not being used to treat a chronic condition. Over 6 in 10 Americans say Medicare should cover the cost of these drugs to help people lose weight.