Brad Watts Brad Watts
Vice President, Patents and Innovation Policy, Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce


May 13, 2024


For decades, Americans struggling with obesity have relied on trendy fads and quack cures that promised the Moon but either did not deliver results or were dangerous to their health. But today, innovative new anti-obesity medications are allowing millions of Americans to manage obesity. 

Fill me in: More than one in three American adults struggle with obesity, and yet, medical solutions have been scarce, inadequate, ineffective, and sometimes dangerous. Obesity is often stigmatized and extremely difficult to treat. There are new tools to turn the tide thanks to innovative life science companies committed to developing safe and effective treatments.

Instead of celebrating these medical breakthroughs and increasing access to them, some policymakers are sharing misleading information about these treatments and demonizing the innovative companies that offer real hope to millions struggling with obesity. 

Why it matters: Obesity is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide and is associated with multiple other preventable fatal conditions, like heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer. 

  • However, to save and improve lives, we need more innovative solutions and more patient access. 

What’s more: Studies show that most patients taking these new anti-obesity medications are not only losing significant weight but also maintaining their weight loss. As we see less obesity, we will see fewer obesity-related health conditions,which will improve lives and save Americans money.    

In fact, a recent study demonstrated that obesity medications can reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, hospitalizations for heart failure and heart disease deaths by 20 percent, or 800,000 lives per year.

Reducing co-morbidities and saving lives also translates into major health care system savings and increased worker productivity.

  • Chronic disease is the largest driver of healthcare spending, and obesity alone costs the U.S. healthcare system nearly $173 billion a year, and medical costs for people with obesity in the U.S. tend to be 30% to 40% higher than those for people without obesity. 

Where some policymakers get it wrong: Contrary to what some policymakers think, artificial government price controls lead to fewer innovative medicines and longer wait times for patients. Competition already exists in the anti-obesity market, and that is lowering the net price of anti-obesity medications, all while increasing access, thereby delivering results to millions of Americans. 

Worse still,government price controls could lead to a rationing of care, limiting patient access to these life-altering medications. 

  • For example, regulators in Denmark are rationing care and only subsidizing certain anti-obesity medications for patients who have already tried “cheaper alternatives.” This rationing is occurring even though leading manufacturers have slashed prices in Denmark by almost one-third. 

The bottom line: Life science innovations are helping patients manage obesity – a stigmatized chronic condition that has been historically difficult to treat. While great strides have been made, there is a long way to go.  

An economic system where private sector innovators have the freedom to operate in a competitive market ensures innovative ideas, technologies, and treatments that advance society and help patients develop and thrive. Artificial price-setting based on faulty and incomplete information will only result in fewer innovations and lower levels of access. 

About the authors

Brad Watts

Brad Watts

Brad Watts is the Vice President for Patents and Innovation Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC). He works with U.S. Chamber members to foster a political, legal, and economic environment where innovators and creators can invest in the next big thing for the benefit of Americans and the world.

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