Surgery which reduces the size of the stomach is more effective and economical than weight loss drugs, researchers have said.

A team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that in the long run, having a ‘stomach stitch’ is more cost effective and better at keeping the weight off than popular drugs like Ozempic.

This is because of the lower costs of performing an endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) and the drop-out rates over time with semaglutide.

The researchers found that injections of weight loss drugs are double the cost of surgery and result in around 4% less weight loss.

The findings highlighted how drugs containing semaglutide cost around $53,000 over a five-year period, compared to an ESG which costs less than $20,000.

The ‘stomach stitch’ resulted in an average BMI of 31.7 after five years, compared to an average BMI of 33.0 among those taking the medication for the same period.

The study looked at patients with obesity and a BMI of between 35 and 39.9.

As a base case, researchers looked at a 45-year-old patient with a BMI of 37. They then simulated other hypothetical patients using data, and then simulated two treatment approaches – semaglutide and ESG – against no treatment.

An ESG is carried out by passing a flexible tube with a camera attached through the throat, allowing the surgeon to shut off part of the stomach.

The study authors concluded: “ESG was found to be a cost-effective strategy, offering greater weight loss and cost savings.

The annual cost of semaglutide would need to be reduced 3-fold for it to be a cost-competitive alternative.”

Read the full study in the journal JAMA Network. 

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