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Obesity Triples Prescription Drug Costs

Obese Middle-Aged Men Spend 3 Times as Much on Medications

WebMD Health News

Nov. 8, 2004 -- Obesity not only takes its toll on men's waistlines, but it may also wind up costing them at their local pharmacy. New research shows that middle-aged obese men spend three-and-a-half times as much on prescription drugs than normal-weight men.

The study shows that obese men pay about $80 a month in prescription drug costs compared with an average of about $23 in monthly prescription drug costs among normal-weight men.

Researchers say the findings offer a new perspective on the health problems associated with obesity as well as the financial costs of treating them.

"These are what we call 'real and immediate costs.' These are not the costs associated with an operation or serious event like a heart attack that might happen at some time in the future. Rather, this is what the men, or their employers, spend month after month on their prescription drugs," says researcher Thomas G. Allison, PhD, MPH, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in a news release.

The results of the study were presented this week at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2004 in New Orleans.

Prescription Drug Costs Rise With Weight

In the study, researchers compared the prescription drug costs among a group of 328 male business executives who had physical examinations as directed by their company's health plan between January 2001 and May 2002.

Researchers divided prescription drug costs into medications prescribed to treat heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, and those used to treat other medical conditions related to weight, such as gout and erectile dysfunction.

The study showed as men's weight increased, so did their prescription drug costs.

  • For normal-weight men, monthly prescription drug costs for heart disease-related drugs were $9.89 and for other drugs, $12.96.
  • For overweight men, monthly prescription drug costs for heart disease-related drugs were $18.41 and for other drugs, $20.86.
  • For obese men, monthly prescription drug costs for heart disease-related drugs were $42.02 and for other drugs, $38.29.

"Previous studies looking at the cost of obesity might be underestimating the toll," says Allison. "The men in this study were in a health program that exceeds the type of physical examination that a normal healthcare plan would offer."

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