Health inequities

New Study on the Effectiveness of GLP-1 Weight-Loss Drugs

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Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, a new class of drugs sold under names such as OzempicWegovy, and Zepbound, are soaring in popularity for their ability to achieve and sustain substantial weight loss and improve cardiometabolic health. While these emerging medications hold promise for advancements in obesity-related healthcare, there is limited knowledge to date on the effectiveness of these drugs among diverse populations, and to what extent these treatments are accessible to groups disproportionately affected by obesity.

Andrew Stokes, associate professor of global health, and a team of researchers from the School of Public Health will seek clarity on the population health effects of GLP-1 drugs with a new grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The three-year, $500,000 award will support research that will examine the effects of GLP-1 medication use on obesity care, health disparities, and population health outcomes in the U.S.

“GLP-1 receptor agonists could be transformative for populations disproportionately affected by obesity,” says Stokes, principal investigator of the grant. “However, what we know so far is that the greatest utilization of these therapies have been observed in predominantly wealthy communities, which have comparatively lower rates of obesity and associated cardiometabolic conditions.”

Most of the data on these therapies thus far has been driven by clinical trials, which do not account for disruptions in medication adherence that often occur among everyday people.

“In a clinical trial, people receiving the treatment are able to adhere to the prescribed regimen through support from study staff and incentives for participation, whereas in a real-world setting people may experience side effects or lose insurance coverage and stop taking their medications,” Stokes says. “We hope to learn whether the health benefits observed in clinical trials will translate into real-world settings and diverse subpopulations.”

Read more about this novel work here.

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