Original Research

Willingness to Take Weight Loss Medication Among Obese Primary Care Patients



Men were slightly more likely than women to be willing to take a weight loss medication, which is interesting since men have been shown to be less likely to participate in behavioral weight loss programs and diets [15]. One reason may be that many weight loss programs are delivered in group settings which may deter men from participating. Whether this hypothetical willingness to undergo pharmacotherapy would translate to actual use is unclear, especially since there are barriers to pharmacotherapy including out-of-pocket costs. In a prior study in the United Kingdom, women were more likely to have reported prior weight loss medication use than men [16].

Our study did not find differences in willingness to pursue weight loss medication by race or educational attainment. This is consistent with our prior work demonstrating that racial and ethnic minorities were no less likely to consider bariatric surgery if the treatment were recommended by their doctor [9]. However, our other work did suggest that clinicians may be less likely to recommend bariatric surgery to their medically eligible minority patients as compared to their Caucasian patients. Whether this may be the case for pharmacotherapy is unclear since this was not explicitly queried in our current study [9].

Our study also found that patients with diabetes but not other comorbidities were more likely to consider weight loss medication after adjusting for QOL. This may reflect a stronger link between diabetes and obesity perceived by patients. Our result is consistent with our earlier data showing that diabetes but not other comorbid conditions was associated with a higher likelihood of considering weight loss surgery [9]. Nevertheless, having diabetes contributed only modestly to the variation in patient preferences regarding pharmacotherapy as reflected by the trivial change in model C-statistic when diabetes status was added to the model.

In contrast, lower QOL scores, especially in the domains of self-esteem and sex life, were associated with increased willingness to take a weight loss medication and appeared to be a stronger predictor than individual comorbidities. This is consistent with other studies showing that patients seeking treatment for obesity tend to have lower health-related QOL [9,17]. Our findings are also consistent with our previous research demonstrating that impairments in specific QOL domains are often more important to patients and stronger drivers of diminished well-being than measures of overall QOL [18]. Hence, given their importance to patients, clinicians need to consider QOL benefits when counseling patients about the risks and benefits of various obesity treatments.

This study is the first to our knowledge to systematically characterize demographic factors associated with the likelihood of primary care patients with obesity considering weight loss pharmacotherapy. This information may aid outpatient weight loss counseling by increasing awareness of gender and patient specific preferences. The fact that many patients with obesity appear to be interested in pursuing weight loss medication may also support public health initiatives in providing equitable access to weight loss pharmacotherapy. As our study characterizes patients who are willing to pursue weight loss medications, future studies may include retrospective analyses on actual use of weight loss medications among various demographic groups. Further investigation on specific reasons why patients choose whether or not to use weight loss medication may also be helpful.

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