Dr. Gordon Cohen: Weight-loss drugs could put Medicare out of business

Dr. Gordon Cohen, a local cardiologist and Monday regular on KIRO Newsradio's Seattle morning paper, said diet pills could soon overwhelm health insurance.

Dr. Cohen told Dave Ross that drugs like Ozempic are very expensive and that what used to be used by diabetics is now being used by people who just want to lose weight.

Ozempic helps you pancreas When your blood sugar is high, more insulin is produced, helping to prevent your liver from making and releasing excess sugar and slowing down the rate at which food leaves you Stomach.

“A year's worth of the drug is around $14,000. So it's pretty expensive,” says Dr. Cohen. “It turns out that 42 percent of adults in the United States ages 6 and older are obese.”

If this trend continues, it could cost Medicare $27 billion a year, according to recent research cited by Dr. Cohen. If that happened, Medicare would go bankrupt, Dr. Cohen said.

Dave countered, “Typically, the price of these drugs goes down as you mass-produce them. Also, if you prevent obesity, are there going to be a lot fewer people suffering from other diseases that Medicare already covers?”

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“Losing weight has enormous health benefits. We know that obesity is linked to many other things; high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, all of which have significant medical costs,” Dr. Cohen said.

“So hopefully you'll have trade-offs in prescribing these drugs, people are losing weight, their diabetes is improving, their blood pressure is improving. They're less likely to have heart disease, they're less likely to have metabolic syndrome . As a result, they require less medical care, which turns out to be much more expensive.”

Dave points out that another study in the Journal of Addiction found that highly processed foods are so addictive that they could be classified as addictive substances, implying another solution The method is that the government controls certain foods that are deemed too addictive.

“We can focus on highly processed foods, foods that are high in calories, high in sugar, high in fat but low in nutritional value. If you apply the same criteria, ultimately, you can say that highly processed foods are addictive substances,” Dr. Cohen said . “And if we're going to characterize highly processed foods as addictive substances, we can actually treat people differently if they become addicted to that food.”

Dr. Cohen explained that if we identify and treat an addiction to processed food, it could eventually lead to better long-term treatment. “If we find that people are diagnosed with a food addiction, then they are eligible to take these effective weight loss drugs,” he said.

Dave came up with the idea that if processed foods were deemed addictive, would the government consider them too dangerous to sell?

“I don't know if we're going to get to a point where we can say, hey, these foods can't be marketed. I mean, when Mike Bloomberg was mayor of New York, you know, he taxed drinking sugary drinks. Yes Yes, there's a lot of yelling and complaining about it,” Dr Cohen said.

He also explained that another challenge is the politics of diet pills.

“Some people are actually against these diet pills on principle because they feel it makes us focus again on body image rather than just accepting people for who they are. But in my opinion, as a doctor, that's shortsighted. Obesity is bad for health. impact, they're associated with so many different diseases, pretty much every disease we can think of, and frankly, I don't think you can just bring in weight loss-related body image issues where the health impact is so significant.”

Dr. Gordon Cohen appears regularly on KIRO Newsradio's Seattle Morning News every Monday morning.

Listen to Dave Ross and Colleen O'Brien's Seattle Morning News on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM weekdays from 5-9 am.subscription podcast here.

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