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22 May, 2024
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USA: Teens turn to weight loss drugs amid rising obesity rates

Approximately 4,000 prescriptions for semaglutide were written for children aged 12 to 17 in 2023


In response to escalating obesity rates among teens, some adolescents are turning to powerful weight loss medications, with the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsing their use for those aged 12 and above. The latest drugs, including semaglutide, sold as Wegovy and Ozempic, are gaining popularity among youngsters seeking to combat obesity-related health issues.

According to a report by NBC News, one success story features 16-year-old Demi Buckley from Saginaw, Michigan, who, after struggling with unsuccessful diet and exercise attempts, opted for Wegovy. This decision aligns with the AAP's updated guidelines, which include anti-obesity medications for teens when behavioral and lifestyle modifications prove insufficient. Demi, shedding 58 pounds since March 2023, not only transformed her appearance but also experienced significant improvements in mental health, discontinuing medication for anxiety and depression.

Similarly, 15-year-old Brenden Gallagher from Los Angeles found relief from depression through the off-label prescription of Mounjaro. Although not officially approved for those under 18, the drug has contributed to Brenden's 25-pound weight loss in three months.

Healthcare analytics platform PurpleLab reports that approximately 4,000 prescriptions for semaglutide were written for children aged 12 to 17 in 2023. The rising popularity of these medications is a response to the growing obesity epidemic, affecting 15 million children and teens in the U.S. Obesity places youngsters at higher risk of developing health issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, and obstructive sleep apnea.

Dr. Sheila Magge of Johns Hopkins Medicine underscores the urgency to address severe obesity-related conditions early, given the faster progression of related issues like Type 2 diabetes in children compared to adults. The new class of drugs, specifically GLP-1 agonists like semaglutide, presents a more manageable treatment option with a favorable side effect profile compared to alternatives.

While the AAP's recommendations align with these advancements, critics, including groups focused on eating disorders, express concerns. Worries about potential effects on growth and development have also been raised, emphasizing the need for careful consideration before widespread prescription.

However, the drugs' accessibility faces hurdles, including high costs and insurance coverage challenges. Physicians like Dr. Joan Han stress the importance of a comprehensive evaluation before prescribing weight loss medications, emphasizing that these medications are considered after attempts at exercise and nutrition have been explored.

As the debate continues, adolescents grappling with obesity-related health issues and their families navigate the complexities of medication access and the overall well-being of these young individuals.

Source: NBC News

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