Pharmacotherapy for Weight Management in the VHA

Todd P. Semla, Chris Ruser, Chester B. Good, Susan Z. Yanovski, Donna Ames, Laurel A. Copeland, Charles Billington, U. Inge Ferguson, Louis J. Aronne, Thomas A. Wadden, W. Timothy Garvey, Caroline M. Apovian, David Atkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Weight management medications (WMM) are underutilized as an adjunct to behavioral and lifestyle interventions. In fiscal years 2014–2015, a total of approximately 2500 veterans—a mere 2% of veterans receiving care from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA)—eligible for a WMM received a prescription for one. A State of the Art Conference on Weight Management workgroup, focused on pharmacotherapy, developed evidence-based recommendations and strategies to foster the appropriate use of WMM in the VHA. The workgroup identified patient, prescriber, and health system barriers to and facilitators for prescribing WMM. Barriers included patient and provider concerns about medication safety and efficacy, limited involvement of primary care, restrictive medication criteria for use (CFU), and skepticism among providers regarding the safety and efficacy of WMM and the perception of obesity as a disease. Potential facilitators for removing barriers included patient and provider education about WMM and the health benefits of weight loss, increased engagement of primary care providers in weight management, relaxation of the CFU, and creation of a system to help patients navigate through weight management treatment options. Several research questions were framed with regard to WMM in general, and specifically to the care of obese veterans. While some of the workgroup’s conclusions reflect issues specific to the VHA, many are likely to be applicable to other health organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-73
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Weight Management SOTA was funded by the VA Health Services Research and Development Service. All commentary and conclusions are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Health Services Research and Development Service or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Funding Information:
Todd P. Semla, MS, PharmD – spouse is an employee of Abbvie and formerly of Abbott Labs, and owns stock in both companies. Chris Ruser, MD – none. Chester B. Good, MD, MPH – none. Susan Z. Yanovski, MD – spouse receives research project support from Zafgen and Rhythm Pharmaceuticals. Donna Ames, MD – none. Laurel A Copeland, PhD – Mallinckrodt (grant support). Charles Billington, MD – Novo Nordisk. U. Inge Ferguson, DO – none. Louis Aronne, MD – Stock ownership: BMIQ, Zafgen Inc., ERx, MYOS Corporation; Consultancies: Johnson & Johnson, Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc., VIVUS, Inc., Novo Nordisk A/S, GI Dynamics; Grants received: Eisai, Inc., Astra Zeneca. Thomas Wadden, PhD – serves on advisory boards for Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, and Novo Nordisk. Tim Garvey, MD – Consultancies: Novo Nordisk, Janssen, Alexion, VIVUS, Eisai, Takeda, AstraZeneca, Merck; Research sponsored by institution (UAB) with Dr. Garvey as site PI: Merck, AstraZeneca, Weight Watchers, Eisai, Pfizer, Novo Nordisk, Lexicon, Elcelyx; Stock ownership (all publically traded): Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Novartis, Merck, Isis, Bristol-Myers-Squibb. Caroline Apovian, MD – Consulting: Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Arena Nutrisystem, Zafgen, Sanofi-Aventis, Orexigen, EnteroMedics, Scientific Intake, Gelesis, Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Novo Nordisk; Stock ownership: Science Smart LLC; Research funding: Lilly, Aspire Bariatrics, GI Dynamics, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, Orexigen, MetaProteomics, the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Foundation, and MYOS Corporation. David Atkins, MD, MPH – none.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Society of General Internal Medicine.


  • obesity
  • pharmaceutical care
  • veterans


Dive into the research topics of 'Pharmacotherapy for Weight Management in the VHA'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this