Provider attitudes and practice patterns of obesity management with pharmacotherapy

J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2017 Sep;29(9):543-550. doi: 10.1002/2327-6924.12481. Epub 2017 Jun 30.


Background and purpose: More than one third of American adults are obese. Extreme obesity is rapidly rising. Nine medications are approved for weight loss yet they remain underutilized with the focus primarily on lifestyle modifications. The objective was to determine current prescribing patterns and attitudes of weight loss medications in the management of obesity among primary care providers (PCPs).

Methods: PCPs were surveyed to determine practice patterns, attitudes, barriers, and facilitators for prescribing weight loss medications.

Conclusions: Ninety-four surveys were analyzed. Seventy-six percent of all PCPs did not prescribe weight loss medications for long-term weight loss and 58% of PCPs had negative perceptions of pharmacotherapy. Differences existed between prescribing patterns and attitudes of advanced practice clinicians and physicians. Safety concerns were the greatest barrier. Having 2+ comorbidities and severe obesity were facilitators for prescribing weight loss medications. Underutilization of pharmacotherapy suggests that PCPs may not have sufficient knowledge about medication safety profiles and efficacy. Delaying treatment until patients have reached a high level of morbidity may be less efficacious than earlier treatment.

Implications for practice: Education regarding effectiveness and risks of weight loss medications for obesity management is needed and earlier interventions with pharmacotherapy may prevent significant morbidity and mortality.

Keywords: Obesity; pharmacotherapy; prescribing; weight management.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse Practitioners / psychology
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Perception*
  • Physician Assistants / psychology
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Weight Loss / drug effects