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WVU weight loss expert sees potential in new obesity drugs

Headshot of Laura Davisson, she is pictured smiling. She has shoulder length dark hair and is wearing a blue v-neck blouse.

Dr. Laura Davisson, professor and associate program director of Internal Medicine in the WVU School of Medicine and director of the Medical Weight Management Clinic at J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital, is weighing in on the effectiveness of new obesity drugs. (WVU Photo)

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A West Virginia University expert predicts the many medications currently hitting the market to target obesity will only be the beginning of new discoveries to help people with a body mass index of more than 30 achieve sustained weight loss.

Dr. Laura Davisson, professor and associate program director for Internal Medicine in the WVU School of Medicine, is available to discuss how medications like Zepbound and Wegovy differ, what may be ahead in terms of new drug developments and ways to eliminate existing hurdles to prescription access.

As director of the Medical Weight Management Clinic at J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital, Davisson can also explain the physiological drivers for eating behaviors and the prevalence of obesity in Appalachia.


“The field of obesity medicine is currently in an exciting phase with several medications in the pipeline, potentially available in the next few years. Retatrutide stands out as a promising candidate, with data indicating it could be the most potent anti-obesity medication to date. While Wegovy targets one hormone receptor, Zepbound acts on two, and retatrutide on three, marking a significant advancement. Additionally, several oral anti-obesity medications are on the horizon. This development holds the promise of substantial cost reduction as these medications are expected to be easier and more affordable to produce and store. 

“The surge in anti-obesity medications can be attributed to the recognition that many individuals struggle to achieve sustained weight loss through lifestyle changes alone. Despite initial success, physiological factors often drive weight regain. The latest additions to the anti-obesity medication class serve as highly effective tools, helping individuals adhere to their intended lifestyle changes and maintain weight loss. Notably, these medications are delivering outcomes that have previously only been seen with bariatric surgery.

“Choosing the right anti-obesity medication often hinges on insurance coverage. Without it, the high cost makes these medications inaccessible for most. When covered, individuals typically must use the ‘preferred’ medication on their formulary. An exception is those with Type 2 diabetes, as the same medications are usually covered when used for diabetes treatment. Zepbound, the latest medicine in this class to be approved, produces the most weight loss, though it is yet to hit the market. Wegovy, the previous powerhouse, remains effective for many. For those without access to any of the injectable medications, several older oral options, often recommended by obesity medicine specialists, can still lead to success.

“Insurance coverage for anti-obesity medications is currently at the discretion of employers. They must actively choose to include these medications by opting into an additional rider for coverage, as it’s not a default inclusion. Many employers may be unaware of this option, making it worthwhile for employees to ask for them to be included. While insurance companies have been cautious about expanding coverage due to the high cost of these medications, there is a growing realization of their potential to improve health outcomes. Therefore, I anticipate an increasing number of insurance providers covering them. This is particularly important in areas facing unique health challenges, such as Appalachia, where rates of obesity are often higher. It is crucial that Medicaid and Medicare follow suit in covering these medications to prevent widening health disparities.” — Dr. Laura Davisson, professor and associate program director for Internal Medicine, WVU School of Medicine, and director of the Medical Weight Management Clinic

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVUToday. 



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