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Obesity drug levels increasing

1st February 2008

Prescriptions for obesity drugs are eight times higher than they were in 1999, according to new figures.

obesity1

More than 1m prescriptions are now being made every year, with the majority being for two treatments, sibutramine and orlistat.

The NHS Information Centre said that in 1999 127,000 obesity prescriptions were issued across England but by 2006 that figure had risen to 1.06m.

The rise in the number of prescriptions coincides with a dramatic increase in the number of people who are obese. In the UK, an estimated 25% of adults and one in six children aged two to 15 are now feared to be obese.

Several factors have been highlighted for the increase in prescriptions: that more obesity drugs have come on to the market, that the condition was being taken more seriously by GPs, though some observers suggest that the drugs are being prescribed because GPs have less time to spend on advising patients on diet and exercise.

Dr Jim Kennedy, prescribing spokesman for the Royal College of GPs, said the government, patients and doctors were more aware of the risks of obesity with more of a willingness to consider treatment options. He said obesity drugs would only be prescribed in parallel with a programme geared towards a changed diet and lifestyle for a patient.

However Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said his fear was that these “drugs of last resort� were actually used quite early on.

“It is too easy to turn to the prescription pad,� he said.

 

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