New weight loss drugs not a stand-alone obesity treatment, says bariatric surgeon

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Monday, May 6, 2024
Bariatric surgeon says new weight loss drugs won't treat obesity alone
Wegovy, Ozempic, Zepbound, Mounjaro have opened a whole new avenue for weight loss. But should you use them?

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- You've heard the names - Wegovy, Ozempic, Zepbound, Mounjaro.

They've opened a whole new avenue for weight loss.

However, there are some obstacles on that road.

With nearly half of American adults either overweight or obese, and heavy advertising from drug-makers, demand for the injectable weight loss drugs has skyrocketed.

But bariatric surgeon Rohit Soans of Temple Health says the questions he and colleagues get show that people don't understand them.

"The biggest misconception is that patients don't have to put in any effort, and that the drug will help them magically lose weight. And that's certainly not the case," notes Dr. Soans.

He says patients in studies still needed strict nutritional counseling and exercise to achieve the good results reported in the news media.

Without those elements, people may only lose 5 or 10 pounds, according to Dr. Soans.

So far, he's seen the drugs work best in people with a BMI of 30 to 35.

"The amount of weight loss with the medications is pretty modest. It's not, significant, like game-changing weight loss," he says.

Dr. Soans says side effects like nausea, heartburn, bloating or stomach pain affect about 1 in 10 patients, driving some off the medications.

When they do quit, there's a risk the weight can return.

From his experience, "This does become like a long-term medication, because there is a significant recidivism of weight regain when you stop using the drugs," Roan says.

He believes the combination therapy - surgery and medication to supplement each other - will be the formula in the future for fighting obesity.

"If somebody's had surgery, but then they're noticing that they've had a little bit of a weight regain, and then the medications can be helpful," he says.

The doctor says there's no one answer to obesity.

"Even as a surgeon, we really embrace the medications, because this is another tool that we can use in our tool set to really, you know, fight against this disease," he notes,

Dr. Soans says the bottom line is that it's a must to treat the obesity, so there's no diabetes, high blood pressure, or cancers to treat.