Healthcare

Weight Loss: Medication Versus Surgery?

“With the current obesity epidemic, we must utilize all available tools to help our patients achieve lasting weight loss.”

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by S. GRAY HUGHES, MD, FACS

Many new weight loss medications have recently become available. Ozempic® and Mounjaro® are two medications approved for Type II diabetes that have the added benefit of causing weight loss. Wegovy® contains the same active ingredient (semaglutide) as Ozempic but is explicitly marketed for weight loss. Compared to older weight loss medications, these new medications have shown success and have gained popularity. 

Ozempic is a GLP-1 receptor agonist that inhibits gastric emptying and food intake. Mounjaro activates GIP and GLP-1 receptors. Ozempic has proven effective, with one study showing 15 percent weight loss at 16 months, translating to about a 34-pound weight loss for the average person. Participants who did not take Ozempic lost about six pounds in the same study.

One of the main limitations of these newer medications is the high cost. GoodRx lists Ozempic at $940 per carton, and Wegovy can run up to $1,000 per dose. Though price varies based on one’s insurance, the long-term cost can be consequential. In addition, numerous studies show that people taking weight loss medications tend to regain most of their weight once they stop.

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With the CDC estimating that approximately 42 percent of Americans are obese (BMI 30 or greater), we must utilize all the available tools. Obesity is a chronic disease that short-term remedies cannot address. The foundation of any long-term weight loss program is lifestyle modifications, including eating good nutritious foods and exercising regularly. Dieting can lead to short-term weight loss but is rarely successful long-term.

The next step for those needing additional help with weight loss after lifestyle modifications is some combination of weight loss medication or weight loss surgery. In the U.S., both treatment options need to be more utilized. Only about 2 percent of people who would benefit from weight loss medications take them, and only about 1 percent of eligible patients undergo weight loss surgery. Bariatric surgery results in a 60-70 percent excess weight loss in one year. Weight loss surgery is safe and results in reliable, lasting weight loss. 

At the South Carolina Obesity Surgery Center, we believe surgery is the most effective tool to help our patients achieve the sustained weight loss they need. Surgery, in addition to lifestyle change and lifelong support, has led to many success stories.

Weight loss medications can play a role; occasionally, we utilize them for patients wanting to lose additional weight after surgery. Also, some patients with weight regain may benefit from weight loss medications. With the current obesity epidemic, we must utilize all available tools to help our patients achieve lasting weight loss.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Dr. S. Gray Hughes, MD, FACS is a native of Conway, S.C. A former general and thoracic surgeon for the U.S. Air Force, he served two tours in Iraq prior to joining Lexington Medical Center in 2010. His practice encompasses the full range of general and thoracic surgery, including bariatric surgery.

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3 comments

Observer (the real one) November 16, 2023 at 1:18 pm

Looks like somebody needs help paying for some fat surgery.

“It costs how much?!? How’s about a free ad on my blog?”

Reply
Capitalism Gonna Capitalism November 17, 2023 at 8:56 am

It’s thought that Ozempic (Wegovy) can cause stomach paralysis, which can be permanent.

Keep in mind some of these are drugs approved for type 2 diabetics and in typical fashion the pharmaceuticals are greedily trying to line their pockets by finding other uses without knowing what the long term side effects are.

Reply
jbl1a November 17, 2023 at 9:46 am

Here’s a novel idea, how about put some effort and responsibility into your life. Good old fashion exercise and a good diet of healthy foods. Worked with a guy that was close to 400lbs and over 6’4″. He lost over 120 lbs because he took responsibility for his life and tried. Didn’t cost him 1000s of dollars either. Everyone wants the easy way out nowadays..

Reply

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