GPs 'could do more' to help obese avoid surgery

December 16, 2008

Surgery to treat obesity could be avoided if GPs and healthcare trusts put more time and money into early stage weight management programmes, a senior clinical researcher will say today (Wednesday, 17 December, 2008).

And he will say that patients suffering from obesity face a "post code lottery" when seeking access to specialist care.

Speaking at the British Pharmacological Society's Winter Meeting in Brighton today, Dr Nick Finer, Clinical Director, Wellcome Clinical Research Facility at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, will call for anti-obesity drugs to be more widely used.

Dr Finer will say that these drugs are cost-effective interventions and do work if correctly used.

But he will add that in some patients early potential for drug treatment to prevent the later need for surgery is being missed - due to the reluctance of primary care doctors to treat obesity.

In his presentation, entitled 'Clinical challenges: can current drugs compete with surgery?', Dr Finer will be discussing the place of drug treatment in the management of obesity.

Dr Finer said: "About one third of people taking the two drugs currently licensed for obesity management, in conjunction with a diet and lifestyle programme, will achieve a 10 per cent weight loss and around half a five per cent loss. Weight loss is well maintained if drug treatment is continued.

"Drug treatment has also been shown to delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes, reduce cardiovascular risk factors and improve well-being.

"These results clearly do not match surgery but could be more generally adopted in clinical care.

"Despite NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) guidelines, there is a reluctance of primary care doctors to treat obesity, with or without drugs, and thus the early potential for drug treatment to prevent the later need for surgery in some people is missed.

"There remains a strong antipathy from many doctors, primary care trusts and specialist commissioning groups to invest in obesity management.

"NICE guidelines - and even more seriously previous Health Technology Assessments - remain to be implemented. There is a complete post code lottery for patients to access specialist care.

"Until the QOF (Quality and Outcomes Framework) system remunerates GPs for undertaking weight management there will be little stimulus for adoption of current evidence-based treatment guidelines."

Dr Finer is just one of the presenters at a special symposium on Obesity at the BPS Winter Meeting, which also includes a presentation on the regulatory challenges for new anti-obesity drugs. For the full programme please see below.
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Notes to editors

About the BPS

The British Pharmacological Society, including its Clinical Pharmacology Section, is the professional association for pharmacologists in the UK and is one of the leading pharmacological societies in the world.

The history of the Society dates back to 1931 when a group of pharmacologists met in Oxford and decided to form a learned society. Since those small beginnings the Society has grown to about 2,500 members, who work in academia, industry and the health services, and many are medically qualified. The Society covers the whole spectrum of pharmacology, including the laboratory, clinical and toxicological aspects.

The aims of the Society are to promote and advance pharmacology, including clinical pharmacology, by: assisting, promoting and encouraging research and providing a forum for the presentation of pharmacology; publishing the results of research; promoting and encouraging the education and training of pharmacologists; publishing material in various forms, and promoting and arranging conferences and meetings.

For further information about the British Pharmacological Society visit: http://www.bps.ac.uk

About the Winter Meeting

The BPS Winter Meeting will be held at the Hilton Brighton Metropole Hotel from Tuesday, 16 December, to Thursday, 18 December, 2008.

Joint symposium on obesity and metabolic diseases - Clinical Pharmacology Section:

Organisers: Dr Albert Ferro, Kings College London, UK and Sharon Cheetham, RenaSci, UK

09.00 New targets - peripheral obesity
Dr Ben Field, Imperial College London, UK

09.40 New Central Targets for the Treatment of Obesity
Dr Bruce Sargent, AMRI, USA

10.40 Clinical challenges: can current drugs compete with surgery?
Dr Nick Finer, Wellcome Clinical Research Facility, Cambridge, UK

11.20 Regulatory challenges for new drugs to treat obesity and comorbid metabolic disorders - Professor David Heal, Renasci, UK

Supported by RenaSci and AMRI

Additional lectures:
Dr Andrew Kicman (Kings College London): 'Pharmacology in sports/Olympics' (17 Dec)

Professor Arthur Weston (University of Manchester): Potassium channels and myo-endothelial crosstalk in blood vessels: a pharmacologist's view' (18 Dec)

Kirk Leech / Corina Hadjiodysseos: 'Animal research: Winning the debate' (18 Dec)

For further information about the BPS Winter Meeting visit: http://www.bps.ac.uk/site/cms/contentCategoryView.asp?category=258#WIN08

University of Manchester

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