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Obese women more likely to be prescribed orlistat than men

Obese females – in particular young females – are more likely to be prescribed anti-obesity medication than a male of the same BMI, suggests a recent UK study.

The study investigated factors associated with the prescription of anti-obesity medication – using a population primary care prescribing database, comprising 1.5 million people over the age of 16 in Northern Ireland, during 2009/10.

The results showed that – of the 25% of the population who were obese –  1.3% received anti-obesity medication. But there was a significant gender difference between prescribing rates – with 2.1% of females prescribed an obesity drug compared to just 0.6% of males.

At the start of the study 80% of the prescriptiuons were for orlistat- rising to 99% after the withdrawal of sibutramine. 

The researchers noted that there is evidence of ‘relative under-prescribing in males compared to females despite a similar prevalence of obesity’ and that ‘younger females are more likely to be prescribed anti-obesity medication, suggesting an element of patient demand’. The researchers advise that ‘further study is needed to understand the factors responsible for the variation in prescribing between GP practices’. 

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