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Former HHS Secretary, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease call on Congress to pass Treat and Reduce Obesity Act

May 5, 2014 (RALEIGH, N.C.) - Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson and Kenneth Thorpe, PhD, the Chairman of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, today called on Congress to approve legislation mandating the coverage of obesity medicines under Medicare. Thompson and Thorpe joined Dr. Paul Cunningham, Dean of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and Andrea Layton, Director of Outpatient, Lifestyle and Disease Management at Duke Raleigh Hospital.
"Payers - from Medicare to state exchanges to private plans - simply must begin covering medicines for obesity treatments," Thompson said. "We must give doctors and patients all the tools they need to tackle this epidemic. Obesity medicines are a vital tool being neglected through current policy and reimbursement strategies."
Thompson and Thorpe call on Congress to pass the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act - which would require Medicare to cover FDA-approved prescription drugs to treat obesity. The legislation has 76 cosponsors in Congress.
"There is a critical gap that needs to be addressed here and also an important message for policymakers. We devote a great deal of attention - worthwhile attention, to be sure - to the issue of childhood obesity, but as we struggle with the challenge of keeping programs like Medicaid and Medicare financially sustainable, comparatively little focus is devoted to the problem of obesity and its related chronic diseases among older populations," Thorpe said.
Ten months after the American Medical Association declared obesity a disease, a strong majority of Americans believe Medicare should expand coverage of healthcare options to treat obesity.
According to a national Ipsos poll released by PFCD, 64 percent of Americans support Medicare coverage of obesity medicines. The poll also found:

  • 76 percent of Americans believe obesity is a problem in their state, while 10 percent do not.
  • 52 percent believe the government should invest more in treatments to reduce obesity, with 29 percent opposed.
  • 21 percent of those surveyed were aware the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had recently approved prescription medicines for weight loss, while 68 percent were unaware.

Under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, Medicare is specifically prohibited from covering prescription obesity medicines. In the 11 years since, however, two medicines have been approved as safe and effective by the FDA.
The poll of 1,014 U.S. adults was conducted by Ipsos from March 21-25. It has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
About Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease
The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) is an international NGO of patients, providers, community organizations, business and labor groups, and health policy experts committed to raising awareness of the number one cause of death, disability, and rising health care costs: chronic, noncommunicable disease.
For a collection of statistics and commentary on the impact of chronic disease, please visit
Jennifer Burke