It is no secret that obesity has developed into a worldwide epidemic. According to WHO (World Health Organization) 2021 statistics, obesity causes the deaths of approximately 2.8 million people each year in the world. It also significantly increases the risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States, as reported by the NIH (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute).
According to a 2023 report published by the World Population Review, the United States ranks second after Japan as being the most technically advanced country in the world. It is hard to imagine that one of the world’s most technically advanced countries also ranks 12th out of more than 100 countries in obesity rates.
These statistics are sobering and depressing because obesity is the second most prevalent cause of preventable premature death in the United States. Smoking is #1. Today we are going to talk about the new weight loss options that have emerged in the last few years that have the potential to make an impact on this obesity crisis.
History Of Obesity Treatment Resources
Until about 8 years ago, individuals who suffered from obesity had no other resources except bariatric surgery to help them lose weight and improve their health.
The qualification process for bariatric surgery is cumbersome and often requires a person’s condition to get worse before they can be deemed a candidate to receive help. Bariatric surgery is covered by most insurance companies, but getting them to approve the surgery in the first place has proven to be an uphill battle for most people. The risks, complications, and recovery time are also huge considerations for anyone considering undergoing bariatric surgery.
Timeline Of Newer Weight Loss Options
- In mid-2014, an injectable weight loss drug called Saxenda was approved by the FDA for the treatment of obesity. This was the forerunner to the weight loss injections that have become big news as of late. The weight loss results of Saxenda were not impressive and lack of insurance coverage caused a minimal adoption rate;
- In 2015 the Orbera weight loss balloon was approved in the United States by the FDA. This non-surgical temporary weight loss tool had been used in other countries for many years, but when it was introduced in the U.S., it became the first non-surgical procedure option for treating obesity;
- In 2021, Semaglutide was granted FDA approval for the treatment of obesity under the brand name Wegovy®. This is the same drug, Semaglutide, that was approved by the FDA in 2017 under the name Ozempic® to treat patients with type 2 diabetes. The only difference between the two is that the dose for weight loss is higher than when used to treat diabetes;
- In July 2022, endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty was granted approval by the FDA as a safe and effective weight loss procedure to treat obesity without surgery;
- Pending – a newer prescription medication called Mounjaro® (Tirzepatide) has already been FDA-approved (2022) to treat patients with type-2 diabetes, but it has shown significant promise in treating obesity and is on a fast track for FDA approval in the summer of 2023.
New Non-surgical Options Will Shape The Future Of Weight Loss
Non-surgical weight loss procedures and prescription drugs for obesity have the potential to drastically change the game for individuals who suffer from obesity. These new alternatives can also make a significant impact on combating the rising obesity epidemic.
The Orbera intragastric balloon is used as part of a 12-month program that helps patients make permanent changes to their lifestyles so that they become healthier through weight loss.
During the first half of the program, a medical device is placed into their stomach that helps take up a significant amount of space so they must eat smaller portions at mealtime. They also receive help with appetite suppression, and they stay full for a longer time.
There are no permanent changes made to their digestive system, and there are no incisions, no hospital stay, and very low-risk factors. Most individuals need about a week for their stomachs to adjust to the Orbera device.
Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty (ESG)
This is the newest non-surgical weight loss option recently approved by the FDA. The procedure is performed endoscopically, does not involve any abdominal or other incisions, and is performed as an outpatient procedure.
During the ESG procedure, the stomach is folded to be smaller and more like a banana in shape. This new shape is then secured by stitching it together using a special suturing device. The entire stomach remains intact, and the procedure can be reversed if necessary. Most patients recover in anywhere from a few days to a week.
ESG offers patients significant weight loss potential and results in the same outcome as bariatric gastric sleeve surgery, which should make that surgery obsolete. Since the gastric sleeve is the most commonly performed weight loss surgery, replacing it with ESG could render weight loss surgery a thing of the past.
More Progress Is Needed To Make Non-Surgical Procedures Available To Those Who Need Them Most
Much ground has been covered, but there are some significant issues that need to be addressed. The good news is that procedures like the Orbera balloon, endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG), and new prescription weight loss drugs have been proven to help obese individuals lose weight. The bad news is that currently these treatments are not routinely covered by health insurance plans, so they are not accessible to most of the obese population.
If and when health insurance companies provide coverage for these less invasive methods to address obesity, more individuals will embrace these latest ways to lose weight, and the obesity percentages should begin to decline.
Obesity And Its Impact On Health Care Costs
The healthcare costs associated with obesity are astronomical and have sent everyone’s healthcare costs through the roof. Here are some fast facts that highlight why insurance companies need to cover these new weight loss options.
- Direct healthcare costs alone related to obesity cost the U.S. over $176 billion annually. Additionally, there are significant costs associated with the ongoing care and treatment of obese individuals, including prescriptions to control diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. The breakdown of costs associated with the top 3 obesity-related health concerns is found in the table below.
Chronic Condition Cost in 2014 Hypertension $346 billion Type 2 Diabetes $320 billion Chronic Back Pain $215 billion
- The average cost of insurance-covered bariatric surgery ranges from $14,900 for a sleeve gastrectomy to $14,500 for a gastric lap band and $23,000 for a gastric bypass. The average cost of the non-surgical alternatives is between $7000 and $10,000.
- The risks and complication rates associated with a bariatric surgical procedure are much higher than with these non-surgical alternatives.
- Qualifying for bariatric surgery requires a BMI of 40 or higher, being at least 100 pounds overweight, or a BMI of at least 35, and suffering from at least one obesity-related illness such as type 2 diabetes. The flaw in this set of parameters is that an individual who has a BMI over 30 is considered obese, yet they cannot receive any help through bariatric surgery until their BMI becomes at least 5 points worse and they develop a serious health condition. Would it not make sense to try to avoid additional health issues and medical expenses by treating the condition before it got worse?
- Studies have shown that collectively, these new non-surgical procedures have reduced the occurrence of obesity-related illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as significantly reduced the risks of experiencing other serious health conditions. Remember that obesity is the number one cause of preventable death.
- The costs of prescription weight loss injections need to be covered by medical insurance in a fair and equitable way. They will cover the same prescription medication when used to treat diabetes but not to treat obesity. The medication is less expensive than bariatric surgery.
- The manufacturers of these medications need to be held accountable as far as what they are charging for these weight loss drugs. For example, the list price (for a one-month supply) of Ozempic, which is the prescription drug Semaglutide and is used to treat patients with type 2 diabetes, is about $890, yet when the same drug is sold under the name Wegovy to treat obesity, the list price jumps to almost $1,400. What the heck?
Health Insurance Coverage For New Non-Surgical Weight Loss Options Is Critical
Many doctors are frustrated because they want to provide the best treatment they can to their patients, but the majority of them cannot afford the high price tags. Statistics show that obesity rates are higher in low-income areas, so the individuals who really need these alternatives the most cannot afford to self-pay for these new non-surgical weight loss options.
Society Needs An Education On Obesity
While obesity is one of the worst and most chronic diseases, most people know little about it. As a matter of fact, there is a huge deficiency of obesity-trained physicians in America, with only one percent of them trained in obesity medicine.
There is a common misconception that obese individuals just need to try harder, eat less, and have some willpower. It’s crucial that people understand that being obese is not a function of personal weakness or a defect in their character. While external factors are undoubtedly involved, the underlying cause is biological, and the physiological changes that occur in people who are obese make it extremely challenging for them to drop weight and keep it off permanently.
America needs to prioritize obesity as a health concern, and the American people need to be educated on the facts surrounding obesity and how they can play a part in bringing about change.
The Future Is Bright For The New Non-Surgical Weight Loss Options
These new non-surgical weight loss procedures and medications have the potential to change the way people achieve sustainable weight loss in the foreseeable future. Invasive bariatric surgery should be the exception and used only in the most necessary cases. The potential for many positive changes is on the horizon: a healthier nation, lower healthcare costs, and less social stigma regarding obesity. It is up to us to help drive these changes.
Contact Batash Endoscopic Weight Loss Center
If you are looking for a non-surgical way to treat your obesity before things get worse, give Batash Endoscopic Weight Loss Center a call. We would love to talk with you. There is no judgment here, because we have expert, in-depth knowledge of the complex disease of obesity and can help you fight it.
We can help you regain your health through a customized, doctor-supervised weight loss plan that utilizes the newest non-surgical weight loss options. In addition, you will receive the maximum level of comprehensive support from a team of qualified professionals. Set up an appointment with Batash Medical today; you will be glad you did tomorrow!