New Guidance on Weight-Loss Drugs for Obese Children

January 9, 2023
A photo of of a scale at a doctor's office

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Weight-Loss Drugs for Children?

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on why weight matters. 1 in 5 children in America are obese (CDC). AAP found the most effective intervention for children ages 6 and up requires 26+ hours of “face-to-face, family-based, multicomponent treatment” spanning 3 – 12 months, while also acknowledging that this treatment is time-consuming, and is not universally available.

The Recommendations:

Obese children and adolescents

  • Offer nutrition and lifestyle coaching
  • Offer weight-loss drugs (children 12+ only)
  • Screen for high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension
  • Teens ages 13+ with severe obesity: Offer option of weight-loss surgery
  • Just a note: AAP says there isn’t enough evidence to recommend medication for children ages 2 to 12 years old.

Co-author of the new guidelines, Dr. Sandra Hassink. The guidelines do not cover obesity prevention, though the AAP says this will be addressed in the future.

Dr. Robert Lustig, University of California, San Francisco – a specialist in pediatric endocrinology. Some doctors voice concern about using weight-loss pills/injections too quickly, or without long-term clinical data on side effects for children. Furthermore, some health insurance companies may not pay for weight-loss medications.

How do you define childhood obesity?

A doctor uses a child’s height and weight to calculate their body mass index, or BMI.

A calculator tool compares the child’s height and weight to other children the same age and sex.

Being ‘overweight’ means having a BMI in the 85th to 95th percentile, compared to others their age and gender.

Being ‘obese’ means having a BMI at or above the 95th percentile, compared to others.

American Academy of Pediatrics Issues Its First Comprehensive Guideline on Evaluating, Treating Children and Adolescents with Obesity (American Academy of Pediatrics)

New Guidance: Use drugs, surgery early for obesity in kids (The Associated Press)

Childhood obesity requires early, aggressive treatment, new guidelines say (NPR)

U.S. experts recommend weight-loss drugs for obese children (Reuters)

Pediatricians Recommend Weight-Loss Drugs for Obese Children (The Wall Street Journal)

Childhood Overweight & Obesity (CDC)

by Jenna Lee,

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