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Nearly 25% of U.S. adults take an obesogenic prescription drug



Nearly a quarter of American adults are on a prescription drug that often produces obesity as a side effect, and use of such obesogenic drugs was significantly higher among patients who already are obese, based on national U.S. data collected during 2013-2016.

Dr. Craig M. Hales, medical epidemiologist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, MD Mitchel L. Zoler/MDedge News

Dr. Craig M. Hales

The Endocrine Society, the STOP Obesity Alliance, and other medical societies have recommended that clinicians try to minimize use of obesogenic drugs and focus on prescribing agents that are weight neutral or that trigger weight loss when those options are available and appropriate, and the new findings add further evidence that clinicians need to be more mindful of this issue, Craig M. Hales, MD, said at a meeting presented by the Obesity Society and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Among the American adults interviewed for the survey, 40% of those on at least one prescription medication were on at least one drug that is considered obesogenic, said Dr. Hales, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Hyattsville, Md.

According to practice guidelines published by the Endocrine Society, all drugs in the classes of glucocorticoids, beta-blockers, and antihistamines are obesogenic, as well as selected agents in the classes of antidepressant drugs, antipsychotics, antidepressants, antidiabetics, and contraceptives that are progestin only, said Dr. Hales (J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Feb;100[2]:342-62).

The data he reported came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) run by the CDC during 2013-2016 that included 11,055 adults who were at least 20 years old. The findings showed that 23% of those adults had taken at least one drug that was considered obesogenic during the 30 days preceding the survey date. By comparison, 35% of the same adults had taken any type of prescription drug during the previous 30 days. That meant that overall, 40% of surveyed adults who had recently used any prescription medication had taken an obesogenic drug.

The 23% prevalence of recent obesogenic drug use was fairly stable at that level during several preceding NHANES surveys going back to 2001, suggesting that the increasing use of obesogenic drugs during the period since 2001 was not a factor in the recent increased prevalence of obesity among U.S. residents, added Dr. Hales.

The 2013-2016 analysis also showed a strong link between obesogenic drug use and increasing obesity severity. Among survey participants with a body mass index (BMI) in the normal range (18.5-24 kg/m2), 16% had recent use of an obesogenic drug. This prevalence increased to 22% among those who were overweight (BMI, 25-29 kg/m2), 29% among those with class 1 or 2 obesity (BMI, 30-39 kg/m2), and 33% among those with class 3 obesity (BMI, 40 kg/m2 or greater).

In contrast, recent use of prescription medications that do not contribute to obesity showed no significant relationship with BMI, with rates that ranged from 34% among those with a normal BMI, to 37% among those with class 3 obesity.

As an example of this relationship for a specific obesogenic drug class, the prevalence of beta-blocker use was about 7% among people with a normal BMI, about 10% among those who were overweight, about 14% among people with class 1 or 2 obesity, and about 17% among people with class 3 obesity, a statistically significant link suggesting that the relationship between use of obesogenic drugs and obesity is “bidirectional,” Dr. Hales said, in that increasing obesogenic drug use likely contributes to obesity, while simultaneously, the more obese people become, the more likely they are to take additional prescription drugs, particularly those that are obesogenic.

NHANES is run by the CDC and receives no commercial funding. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Hales CM et al. Obesity Week 2019, Abstract T-OR-2037.

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