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Are Anti-Obesity Meds Limited For Black People?

By Sabrina Lynch

  • Black people are four times more likely to encounter difficulties accessing anti-obesity drugs compared to their White counterparts
  • 49% of U.S adults classified as obese are Black with the anti-obesity market expected to be worth $44B by 2030

Gluttony for lily-white cash is the sin du jour that’s preventing Black populations from accessing life-changing treatment for obesity. The healthcare industry is currently experiencing a rise of interest in drugs that prevent weight gain and treat diabetes, however these particular medications are unavailable particularly for Blacks. One of the reasons being their cost and exclusion from Medicare coverage. The scales of accessibility don’t exactly tip in favor of people of color who are at greater risk for developing issues with weight management, especially Black women.

Why This Matters: Ozempic, Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro were previously green-lit to treat type 2 diabetes, and then were subsequently found to help people lose weight. However fewer Black and Hispanic people are prescribed these medications despite being more susceptible to these chronic diseases. White people have nearly 40% lower prevalence of diabetes than Black people, but they are four times more likely to receive a prescription for semaglutide (Wegovy). Moreover, out-of-pocket costs for these drugs currently can set an individual back $1,300 without the financial support of Medicaid or having access to an inexpensive private healthcare plan.

It doesn’t take a vast imagination to understand the impact this has on Hispanic, NHOPI (Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Other Pacific Islander), and Black people who are more likely to be uninsured and have lower incomes than their White counterparts. Moreover, growing shortages of the medications could further limit opportunities to communities of color who need quality care. Injectable diabetes medications have been in short supply for two years straight, limiting access to important treatments around the country. Reason being is vanity, as the drug is being co-opted by other parties because of the beneficial side effects of weight loss. This is preventing reductions in chronic illnesses among communities of color who need quality care for diabetes, heart disease, as well as attaining better health care packages.

What’s Next: There are definitely structural barriers to healthcare, such as insurance coverage limitations and provider biases that contribute to disparities in access to anti-obesity medications. However, there’s also a need to create awareness on the impact of obesity and the importance of offering comprehensive treatment options, including medications, to address this issue. There are underserved communities but can we make sure they’re deserving because of need and not the color of their skin.

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