Gastric Bypass Obesity Surgery is Cost-Effective Weight Loss
Study disputes long-term medical savings from bariatric surgery
By MELISSA HEALY Los Angeles Times
In the span of 15 years, the number of bariatric surgeries performed in the United States has grown more than 16-fold to roughly 220,000 per year, gaining cachet as a near-panacea for obesity.
Despite the daunting price tag, mounting research has boosted hopes that the stomach-stapling operations could reduce the nation's health care bill by weaning patients off the costly drugs and frequent doctor visits that come with chronic obesity-related diseases like diabetes and arthritis.
But a new study has found that the surgery does not reduce patients' medical costs over the six years after they are wheeled out of the operating room.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery, tracked the expenses of nearly 30,000 Americans who got one of two forms of bariatric surgery, and compared their long-term health costs with those of similar patients who were obese but did not go under the knife to lose weight. Even when the initial $20,000 to $25,000 cost of the procedure was taken out of the equation, the ongoing expenses for the patients who had surgery were roughly the same as for those who did not.
In an editorial accompanying the study, Dr. Edward H. Livingston wrote that "bariatric surgery does not provide an overall societal benefit." Though acknowledging that such surgery has "dramatic short-term results," he added that its longer-term effects - including on longevity - have been disappointing. . .
Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of health policy and management at Emory University's School of Public Health, said there's reason to believe that drug and behavioral therapies are a better investment than surgeries. For patients considered pre-diabetic, studies have shown that a 16-week course called the Diabetes Prevention Program staves off the disease in 58 percent of those under 60 and 71 percent of patients over 60. And the Food and Drug Administration last year approved two new weight-loss medications, Qsymia and Belviq, that could bring similar health benefits.
The costs of these treatments are "a pittance compared with what we're doing with bariatric surgery," Thorpe said.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/02/22/5208752/study-disputes-long-term-medical.html#storylink=cpy
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