Cost-effectiveness of pharmacotherapy to reduce obesity

PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e26051. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026051. Epub 2011 Oct 27.


Aims: Obesity causes a high disease burden in Australia and across the world. We aimed to analyse the cost-effectiveness of weight reduction with pharmacotherapy in Australia, and to assess its potential to reduce the disease burden due to excess body weight.

Methods: We constructed a multi-state life-table based Markov model in Excel in which body weight influences the incidence of stroke, ischemic heart disease, hypertensive heart disease, diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis, post-menopausal breast cancer, colon cancer, endometrial cancer and kidney cancer. We use data on effectiveness identified from PubMed searches, on mortality from Australian Bureau of Statistics, on disease costs from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and on drug costs from the Department of Health and Ageing. We evaluate 1-year pharmacological interventions with sibutramine and orlistat targeting obese Australian adults free of obesity-related disease. We use a lifetime horizon for costs and health outcomes and a health sector perspective for costs. Incremental Cost-Effectiveness Ratios (ICERs) below A$50 000 per Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) averted are considered good value for money.

Results: The ICERs are A$130 000/DALY (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 93 000-180 000) for sibutramine and A$230 000/DALY (170 000-340 000) for orlistat. The interventions reduce the body weight-related disease burden at the population level by 0.2% and 0.1%, respectively. Modest weight loss during the interventions, rapid post-intervention weight regain and low adherence limit the health benefits.

Conclusions: Treatment with sibutramine or orlistat is not cost-effective from an Australian health sector perspective and has a negligible impact on the total body weight-related disease burden.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Obesity Agents / economics*
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / therapeutic use
  • Australia
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Cyclobutanes / economics
  • Drug Costs*
  • Humans
  • Lactones / economics
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / economics*
  • Orlistat
  • Treatment Failure


  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Cyclobutanes
  • Lactones
  • Orlistat
  • sibutramine