Almost a decade ago, the American Medical Association (AMA) said obesity is a disease, and so did the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Paleo diet, keto diet, weight watchers, intermittent fasten diet, and other rapid-weight-loss schemes have been revolving around for years. Most people believe weight loss is entirely a result of a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Weight loss is partly a function of a healthy lifestyle, but studies have suggested that genetics and environmental factors can make it extremely difficult for some people without outside help, such as prescription drugs or even surgery.

Prescription drugs, especially a group of drugs called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists, which were designed for people with diabetes, have been found effective at shedding those extra pounds. For example, liraglutide (Victoza) is used to treat diabetes, but it is also sold under the brand name Saxenda for weight loss.

In June 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Wegovy (semaglutide) injection (2.4 mg once weekly) for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight.

Wegovy manufacturer Novo Nordisk said it aims to make drugs that can offer results similar to invasive procedures. The company said Wegovy trials showed patients losing an average of about 15% of their body weight.

Most overweight and obese people who fail to lose weight even after following a healthy diet and exercise regimen are candidates for prescription drugs like Saxenda and Wegovy. Still, only 3% of Americans are taking weight-loss drugs, while most have not even heard of them.

The American Board of Obesity Medicine has certified more than 5,200 obesity medicine doctors, up from 587 in 2013. However, most doctors simply are not prescribing the medications.

Ethan Lazarus, President-Elect at Obesity Medicine Association, said most doctors are not prescribing weight loss drugs partly because the pills and shots are not the magic cure for obesity. Patients still need to follow a healthy diet, work out, and check with their providers to monitor their progress.

Meanwhile, a few startups are offering apps that can help patients to know about prescription weight loss drugs.

Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity medicine physician, educator, and policymaker at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said, “Patients aren’t being made aware that medications are even an option.”

She said these emerging tools or apps could help bridge the gap between the drugs and their potential beneficiaries. She said she withheld such treatment information from her patients with diabetes or hypertension, “I would lose my medical license.”

Americans spend billions a year on weight-loss programs, including gyms, apps that count calories and track exercise, but most of them fail to shed those extra pounds probably due to genetic or environmental factors. And what they may need is a prescription weight loss drug. The article appeared on Bloomberg.