GPs should monitor the use of anti-obesity drug, study suggests
GPs are prescribing the anti-obesity drug orlistat in line with NICE recommendations, but many patients are being left on the drug even if they fail to lose any weight, say researchers.
Nearly a quarter of adults in England are obese, with figures on the rise for both adults and children.
The Foresight report, a scientific report used to guide government policy, has predicted that by 2025, nearly half of men and over a third of women will be obese.
Orlistat is the only approved drug treatment for obesity in the UK following the withdrawal of subutramine from the market, due to concerns that its use could increase the risk of cardiovascular events.
NICE guidelines on managing obesity recommend that orlistat is prescribed to patients only as part of an overall plan for managing obesity in adults after diet, exercise and behavioural approaches have been tried.
To be eligible for the drug, patients must have a body mass index (BMI) of 28.0 kg/m2 or more with associated risk factors, or a BMI of 30.0 kg/m2 or more.
For this latest study, researchers led by Dr Katy Gines, from West Midlands Foundation School, identified all patients who had been prescribed orlistat at a selected GP practice between November 2008 to November 2009.
A total of 84 patients, aged 20-74, were found to be taking the orlistat, with 93 per cent of the patients meeting the NICE criteria for starting treatment with the drug.
However, 67 per cent of patients were left on the treatment after three months even if they had failed to achieve significant weight loss, and despite NICE stating that patients should only continue treatment if they have lost 5 per cent of their initial body weight since starting treatment.
The study findings, presented at the Royal College of General Practitioners annual conference in Harrogate, concluded that “all patients need regular follow-up and should have their treatment discontinued if they gain weight.
“All patients who do not met the criteria of achieving 5 per cent total body weight loss at three months should stop treatment.”
8 October 2010
This page was last updated: 11 October 2010