Obesity currently affects 1 in 3 adults. Now, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (GW) has released a report representing consensus findings from a cross-section of stakeholders that could help transform the methods used to assess interventions to treat obesity.

The stakeholder dialogue group set out to determine why the development and approval of drugs to fight obesity have been so challenging.

Christine Ferguson, J.S., Professor in the Department of Health Policy, explained:

“At a time when so many Americans suffer with obesity and are faced with limited treatment options, there has been a rising call to review the emerging science on obesity to update the framework used when evaluating obesity drugs. The FDA, under a reauthorized Prescription Drug User Fee Act, is likely to take a wider, more comprehensive look at how drugs developed to treat obesity affect how individuals with obesity feel and function. This report may help update the risk-benefit framework.”

The stakeholder group consisted of obesity experts, consumer advocates, researchers and clinicians. In addition, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) all took part in the dialogue process, but were not asked to endorse the final report.

The report highlights a series of new interventions that should be taken into consideration by the FDA when assessing the benefits and risks of obesity drugs, including:

  • The benefit-risk assessment of treatment when obesity medications should extend beyond numerical weight loss to improvement in feeling and function.
  • Obesity affects each person differently. Assessing the benefits and risks of interventions should reflect the various considerations within the different categories of obesity based on health impairments, functioning, and feeling.
  • Potential pharmaceutical interventions should be reviewed as obesity treatments instead of weight loss agents and should also be limited to only those for whom they are medically appropriate.
  • Obesity drugs may provide an additional option for helping people who do not respond, or inadequately respond, to other interventions.

Written by Grace Rattue