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February 16, 2024

Use of weight-loss drugs begins to climb among U.S. youth

A small but rapidly growing number of U.S. adolescents began treatment with Novo Nordisk's weight-loss drug Wegovy last year, a powerful new tool to address record rates of pediatric obesity, according to data shared exclusively with Reuters (Source: “Exclusive: Wegovy fuels sharp rise in use of weight-loss drugs for US youth,” Reuters, Feb. 15).

In the first 10 months of 2023, 1,268 children ages 12 to 17 with an obesity diagnosis started taking Wegovy, according to U.S. insurance claims data compiled by health technology company Komodo Health.

In 2022, only 25 children were prescribed the drug, which did not receive U.S. approval for adolescent use until December of that year. A month later, the influential American Academy of Pediatrics recommended weight-loss drugs be offered to children with obesity starting at age 12.

Medicaid data obtained by Reuters from five states, including Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, show a similar uptick in use of Wegovy. The overall numbers remain small, with at least 464 children across the five states being prescribed the drug since January 2022.

But the data indicate an increasing willingness among families to embrace Wegovy, the first highly effective treatment for obesity, short of surgery. Use of the weekly injection can involve great cost, with limited data on long-term risks and benefits.