By Dr. Arnold Saperstein, CMO


Everyone’s weight loss journey is unique and can be impacted by emotional and social factors, genetics, and financial resources in addition to diet and physical activity. With the prevalence of obesity at an all-time high and its associated health risks, it’s not surprising there is rising consumer demand for anti-obesity medications (AOMs) that promise short-term weight loss success. However, to be truly effective, a weight management solution must balance these medications with lifestyle changes that a person can sustain long-term. The goal is better overall health, not just a lower number on the scale.  


How AOMs are changing the way we approach weight loss and access weight loss solutions 

New generation glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists are showing even more promising proof of clinical efficacy. However, AOMs are not without drawbacks. The sudden popularity of these drugs has led to shortages as people are clamoring to have their providers prescribe the medication. Or people are accessing these medications through direct-to-consumer programs oftentimes through off-label use. Even with a prescription, these medications are not always readily available.  Some pharmacies do not stock the drugs because of low reimbursement rates from pharmacy benefit managers. Finally, these drugs are quite expensive, and are not uniformly covered by health insurance contributing further to health inequity.  

Aside from access and cost concerns, weight management programs that include AOMs need to consider how these medications work for individuals. Ongoing medication management—including appropriate dosing and adjustments—is necessary to optimize effectiveness, especially when a plateau (inevitably) happens. For some, AOMs are not a viable long-term option for weight loss.  


The hard truth: Sustainable weight management requires life-long diet and lifestyle changes 

Lifestyle, exercise, and dietary changes are crucial components for a successful weight loss plan. This is especially true for individuals currently prescribed or exploring an AOM. These changes yield several benefits: they are more cost-efficient than medication, easily revised, and accessibility is not a concern. Even more significant are the real benefits lifestyle changes provide to overall health and well-being beyond that of weight loss. Exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses and a healthy diet boosts immunity and strengthens your body. Stress management can improve emotional and mental health, help with sleep as well as improve mood and relationships.  

Undertaking these changes can be challenging and overwhelming which is why having a specialized expert to guide individuals in their weight loss journey is an invaluable resource. 


The value of clinical support and education for weight management 

At Cecelia Health, lifestyle and diet will always be the core of managing weight loss. Our team of clinicians—including registered dietitians—work closely with individuals to help implement dietary changes, exercise habits, stress management, and other behavior modifications that result in sustainable long-term results. Clinicians partner with individuals to establish new routines, create better habits, and when needed, work with the individual—and their provider—to determine if AOMs are needed to help achieve weight loss goals. Once on an AOM, our clinicians provide training and education on the medication and how to maximize its effectiveness. Most importantly, clinicians take time to build a relationship and learn about an individual’s unique needs, tailoring care plans that are personalized and, ultimately, are more successful in helping people reach and maintain their healthy weight.  


Although AOMs have captured a great deal of attention in the news, it’s essential to view a weight loss plan as a comprehensive approach to becoming healthier, more energetic, and happier rather than just focusing on reducing weight. 


Learn more about the Cecelia Health weight management solution.


About the Author

Dr. Saperstein began his managed care career in 1992 and continues to dedicate his expertise to developing programs that ensure the highest quality of care. He joined Cecelia Health in 2019 as Chief Medical Officer, where he built the first national virtual Endocrinology telemedicine practice. Dr. Saperstein has expanded the company’s chronic disease management approach beyond Diabetes to include Cardiovascular risk reduction, Congestive Heart Failure, Obesity, Chronic Kidney Disease, Asthma, and COPD programs. He leads Cecelia Health’s national network of expert clinicians and specialty providers, achieving excellent clinical results for patient populations across the country. Prior to Cecelia Health, Dr. Saperstein held leadership positions at MetroPlus Health Plan, joining in 1995 as Chief Medical Officer, next serving as President and CEO from 2006 until 2019. Under his leadership, MetroPlus ranked as one of the highest scoring plans for quality of care (measured by the New York State Department of Health Medicaid Incentive Program and by the Medicaid Consumer Guide for New York City) and rose to the forefront of Value Based Purchasing. During his tenure, Dr. Saperstein developed a groundbreaking quality incentive pay for performance program across the entire network of an estimated 32,000 providers and grew the member population 1100% to serve more than 500,000 people.