Despite a recommendation against declaring obesity a disease by its own Council on Science and Public Health, the American Medical Association did exactly that at its annual convention in Chicago.
In classifying obesity as a disease, the AMA is following a 2008 recommendation from the Obesity Society. Medicare dropped language denying that obesity is a disease from its coverage guidelines almost a decade ago, but still doesn’t pay for anti-obesity drugs, the New York Times notes.
The decision is expected to affect the way physicians and insurers deal with obesity and related conditions going forward.
Implications of the AMA’s decision include:
- One-third of Americans are now classified as sick, based in their body mass index (BMI).
- Opponents say that over-diagnosing obesity could increase potentially-dangerous weight-loss surgery, instead of lifestyle changes
- Supporters contend the decision will increase attention for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are associated with obesity.
- Pharmaceutical companies will certainly include the AMA’s decision in drug marketing.
- Physicians will be more likely to prescribe anti-obesity treatments.
- Insurance providers will face pressure to cover anti-obesity treatments.
- Increased sales for drug makers touting anti-obesity drugs.
In recent months, two new obesity drugs have hit the market: Vivus‘ (VVUS) Osymia and Arena Pharmaceutical’s (ARNA) Belviq. However, Osymia sales have so far proven disappointing, while Belviq only just received clearance for sale in the U.S. after overcoming regulatory hurdles.
More drugs are likely to follow. Denmark-based Novo Nordisk(NVO) is conducting trials on liraglutide, which could hit the market by 2015.
Shares of Vivus and Arena climbed more than 1% in Wednesday morning trading, while Novo Nordisk shares fell about 1%.