April 4, 2014
As providers and patients, policymakers and stakeholders alike, all still grapple with how to understand obesity as a disease, the recent announcement by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) asserting drug therapy as a viable solution in the treatment of obesity, is another positive step forward in the fight against costly chronic disease.
This development sends a strong message about the importance of addressing obesity in order to prevent and better manage chronic diseases, and also underscores the value of a broad spectrum of options when it comes to finding sustainable healthcare solutions. OPM’s announcement could prove to be highly influential since many organizations hold up federal employee health benefits as a standard. Medicare could especially benefit by encompassing obesity drug therapy in its offerings.
Today, eight of every 10 over-65 individuals have at least one chronic disease and a majority has at least two. These chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, account for 95 percent of all Medicare spending. And, obese seniors will require 34 percent more in healthcare spending than their normal-weight counterparts.
Further, OPM’s recommendation on closely monitoring patients prior to prescription of certain drugs is also a win-win because this could foster increased care coordination and bring greater attention to the importance of adherence.
The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) applauds OPM for bringing attention to this existing gap in the treatment of obesity and for advancing healthcare solutions that could lead to significant reduction in costly chronic diseases.