Obesity treatment to be covered under Japan insurance scheme

Medical associations have raised concerns

Obesity treatment to be covered under Japan insurance scheme

Life & Health

By Kenneth Araullo

Japan’s public medical insurance will cover a new obesity treatment, marking a significant addition to the nation’s health care offerings. This development comes amid debates over the potential misuse of such drugs for non-medical weight loss by healthy individuals.

The drug in question, Wegovy, is produced by Danish pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk. It was added to the national health insurance price list following its regulatory approval for manufacturing and sales in March. Wegovy contains semaglutide, a GLP-1 receptor agonist that stimulates insulin production and reduces blood sugar levels. It also suppresses appetite by inducing a sense of fullness and reducing cravings.

According to a report from The Japan Times, coverage for Wegovy is limited to patients with specific health conditions such as high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol levels), and Type 2 diabetes, who have not seen adequate results from diet and exercise alone. Eligibility criteria include a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or above, or a BMI of 27 or above coupled with at least two obesity-related health issues.

The expanded use of Wegovy for cosmetic purposes has led to a global shortage of similar drugs, limiting access for those in need of medical treatment. In Japan, medical associations have raised concerns about the misuse of GLP-1 drugs for cosmetic and diet purposes, especially with the rise of clinics offering “medical diets” to individuals who do not meet the criteria of obesity or Type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, researchers from the University of British Columbia reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that medications like Wegovy, Ozempic, Rybelsus, and Saxenda are linked to an increased risk of serious gastrointestinal issues.

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