Drugs Health

AAP guidelines for obesity treatment in children call for early, intensive treatment


HQ Team

January 14, 2023: The American Academy of Pediatrics has come out with new guidelines governing obesity among children. The new recommendations specify that children as young as 12, struggling with obesity, should be prescribed medications. Surgery is also suggested for 13 and above, if needed, after proper evaluation.

The longstanding practice of waiting for the children to outgrow their weight problems may only worsen the problem. More than 14.4 million young people in the U.S. suffer from overweight. Obesity affects nearly 20% of kids and teens in the U.S. and about 42% of adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Left untreated, obesity can lead to lifelong health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.

“Waiting doesn’t work,” said Dr. Ihuoma Eneli, co-author of the first guidance on childhood obesity in 15 years from the American Academy of Pediatrics. “What we see is a continuation of weight gain and the likelihood that they’ll have (obesity) in adulthood.”

For the first time, the AAP has come out with specific ages at which children can be treated with drugs or surgery.

The guidelines aim to reset the inaccurate view of obesity as “a personal problem, maybe a failure of the person’s diligence,” said Dr. Sandra Hassink, medical director for the AAP Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight and a co-author of the guidelines.

“This is not different than you have asthma, and now we have an inhaler for you,” Hassink said.

Young people who have a body mass index that meets or exceeds the 95th percentile for kids of the same age and gender are considered obese. Kids who reach or exceed that level by 120% are considered to have severe obesity.

The AAP treats obesity as a biological problem and a complex, chronic disease. It is a lifestyle disease that emerges from biological factors.

New obesity drug approvals

The guidelines follow the approval of new drug treatments for obesity in kids, such as of Wegovy, a weekly injection, for use in children ages 12 and older. Different doses of the drug, called semaglutide, are also used under different names to treat diabetes. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Wegovy, made by Novo Nordisk, helped teens reduce their BMI by about 16% on average, better than the results in adults.

Semaglutide and other anti-obesity drugs have gained credence with celebrity referrals and social media hype. More caution is advised as the correct dosage for children and the long-term effects of the drug are yet not fully known.

In addition, the medicine costs about $1,300 a month, which is expensive. “

Some paediatricians say that children must be evaluated individually to understand all of the factors that contribute to obesity. At this age, children indulge in sugar and highly processed food which are big contributors to weight gain.

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