Current and future state of pharmacological management of pediatric obesity

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Pediatric obesity is a highly prevalent chronic disease, which has traditionally been treated with lifestyle therapy alone. Yet for many youth, lifestyle intervention as a monotherapy is often insufficient for achieving clinically significant and durable BMI reduction. While metabolic/bariatric surgery achieves robust and long-lasting outcomes, it is neither widely accessible nor wanted by most pediatric patients and families. In the past 3 years, this treatment gap between lifestyle therapy and metabolic/bariatric surgery has been filled with a number of landmark clinical trials examining the safety and efficacy of anti-obesity medication (AOM) for use in children and adolescents. These trials include studies of liraglutide, phentermine/topiramate ER, semaglutide, and setmelanotide, all of which have led to FDA and/or EMA approval. Concurrent with this developing evidence base, in 2023, the American Academy of Pediatrics published their first Clinical Practice Guideline on the assessment and management of childhood obesity. The Guideline includes the recommendation that pediatric health care providers should offer AOM to youth ages ≥12 years with obesity. Recognizing that AOM use in the pediatric population will likely become the standard of care and to provide perspective on the recently generated data regarding new AOM, this narrative review summarizes the published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) from the past 10 years that examine AOM for the pediatric population. This report additionally includes RCTs examining AOM for special populations of pediatric obesity including monogenic obesity, Bardet Biedl syndrome, Prader Willi syndrome, and hypothalamic obesity. Finally, the clinical application of AOM for children and adolescents, as well as future directions and challenges are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Early online dateFeb 2024
StateE-pub ahead of print - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited 2024. Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review


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