Published: June 18, 2013
The American Medical Association has officially recognized obesity as a disease, a move that could induce physicians to pay more attention to the condition and spur more insurers to pay for treatments.
Dr. Patrice Harris said the diabetes definition would help in the fight against heart disease.
In making the decision, delegates at the association’s annual meeting in Chicago overrode a recommendation against doing so by a committee that had studied the matter.
“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of the association’s board, said in a statement. She suggested the new definition would help in the fight against Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are linked to obesity.
To some extent, the question of whether obesity is a disease or not is a semantic one, since there is not even a universally agreed upon definition of what constitutes a disease. And the A.M.A.’s decision has no legal authority.
Still, some doctors and obesity advocates said that having the nation’s largest physician group make the declaration would focus more attention on obesity. And it could help improve reimbursement for obesity drugs, surgery and counseling.
“I think you will probably see from this physicians taking obesity more seriously, counseling their patients about it,” said Morgan Downey, an advocate for obese people and publisher of the online Downey Obesity Report. “Companies marketing the products will be able to take this to physicians and point to it and say, ‘Look, the mother ship has now recognized obesity as a disease.’ ”
Two new obesity drugs — Qsymia from Vivus, and Belviq from Arena Pharmaceuticals and Eisai — have entered the market in the last year.
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