Is weight-loss surgery worth the cost?
Bariatric surgery is extremely popular, but a new study questions whether it reduces a patient's long-term heath care expenses.
Obesity isn't just a serious health issue for more than a third of Americans. It weighs us down financially as well.
An annual $190 billion is spent on obesity-related medical costs, according to a Reuters report, citing data from the Mayo Clinic. In fact, an overweight person is expected to have about $1,850 more in yearly medical costs than someone of healthy weight.
There are even obesity-associated costs to the overall economy. The report says job absenteeism among the obese is higher, airlines need an extra $5 billion in jet fuel to fly heavy passengers compared to 1960 weight data, and we spend an additional $4 billion annually on extra gas for heavy passengers and drivers.
Along with calls for better diets, more exercise and additional research into weight-loss drugs, a lot of hope has been invested over the past two decades in bariatric surgery as a treatment for obesity.
The American Society For Metabolic And Bariatric Surgery calls the medical specialty “the only proven method that results in durable weight loss,” with the potential to treat or even cure a dangerously overweight person of ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, liver disease and arthritis.
And the popularity of surgical weight-loss procedures has soared. The Los Angeles Times reports the number of bariatric surgeries performed in the United States -- often at a cost of $10,000 to $43,000 per procedure -- is up 16 times from where it was 15 years ago, to about 220,000 annually.
But a new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests bariatric surgery isn't as efficient as it was expected to be in reducing overall, long-term health care expenses.
The study analyzed information from seven health insurance plans covering more than 18 million people. It compared six years of claims data from those who underwent bariatric surgery to a group who went through related non-surgical treatments.
The study's overall conclusion? "Bariatric surgery does not reduce overall health care costs in the long term,” it says. “Also, there is no evidence that any one type of surgery is more likely to reduce long-term health care costs.”
Some bariatric surgeons are critical of the study, saying the figures would have looked better if the researchers had tracked their patients for longer than six years -- and if they had considered overall cost savings benefits for both employers and insurers regarding reduced disability claims and a drop in absenteeism.
But John Cawley, a Cornell University health economist, liked the study as a way of helping to determine which radical weight-loss treatments are the most medically and economically effective. “We need to know better not just what works,” he told the Times, “but what gets the the best bang for the buck.”
The weight loss picture will better real soon
There is a new Obesity pill called Belviq which is the first one approved by the FDA in 13 years. It is due to hit the pharmacies in March of this year. It has been proven safe with virtually no side effects and very effective for over 50% of those who take it and very effective on people with diabetic issues.
In the 8000 people trials the top 40% of responders who stayed on the pill for 1 year they lost over 10% of their body weight. Twenty pounds for a 200 pound woman is excellent. 25% of the people who stayed on for 1 year lost over 15% of their body weight.
In addition there was a significant reduction of HbA1c levels of -0.9 and fast glucose levels of -27. These effects were seen for patients even if the weight loss was much less than the top 40%. This new FDA approved pill promises to have a major impact of the diet market and the diabetic market.
I had gastric bypass in 2003.... lost over 160lbs... only gained back 40. And I am happier than I have ever been in my adult life. I know some people who have had it done and gained back all the weight plus. Thing is this is not an easy out. It is very difficult to watch others eat and know that you can not because you will feel sick. BUT...that is the chance you take when you have it done and you know this going in. And I feel it is a very small price to pay for that feeling of being able to fit into that seat at the carnival, wear those jeans I love, be able to go into "regular" stores and purchase clothes. Plus the feeling of confidence I got from being thinner is immeasurable. Not to mention I now take NO medications ... a one a day vitamin is it. And I too visit my doctor once a year for my yearly check up. My insurance company should be paying me... hahahaha.
I am one happy post surgical client.
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