The impact of obesity on drug prescribing in primary care

Gibbs, Helen, Broom, John, Brown, Jenny, Laws, Rachel, Reckless, John, Noble, Paula, Kumar, Sudhesh, McCombie, Louise, Lean, Mike, Lyons, Felicity, Frost, Gary, Quinn, Marney, Barth, Julian H., Haynes, Sarah, Finer, Nick, Ross, Hazel, Hole, David and Bray, Caroline 2005, The impact of obesity on drug prescribing in primary care, British journal of general practice, vol. 55, no. 519, pp. 743-749.

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Title The impact of obesity on drug prescribing in primary care
Author(s) Gibbs, Helen
Broom, John
Brown, Jenny
Laws, RachelORCID iD for Laws, Rachel
Reckless, John
Noble, Paula
Kumar, Sudhesh
McCombie, Louise
Lean, Mike
Lyons, Felicity
Frost, Gary
Quinn, Marney
Barth, Julian H.
Haynes, Sarah
Finer, Nick
Ross, Hazel
Hole, David
Bray, Caroline
Journal name British journal of general practice
Volume number 55
Issue number 519
Start page 743
End page 749
Total pages 7
Publisher Royal College of General Practitioners
Place of publication London, Eng.
Publication date 2005-10
ISSN 1478-5242
Keyword(s) defined daily doses
primary care
Summary Background

Healthcare costs attributable to obesity have previously involved estimations based on costs of diseases commonly considered as having obesity as an underlying factor.


To quantify the impact of obesity on total primary care drug prescribing.

Design of study

Review of computer generated and handwritten prescriptions to determine total prescribing volume for all drug classes.


Twenty-three general practice surgeries in the UK.


Stratified random selection of 1150 patients who were obese (body mass index [BMI]>30 kg/m2) and 1150 age- and sex-matched controls of normal weight (BMI 18.5–<25 kg/m2). Retrospective review of medical records over an 18-month period.


A higher percentage of patients who were obese, compared with those of normal weight, were prescribed at least one drug in the following disease categories: cardiovascular (36% versus 20%), central nervous system (46% versus 35%), endocrine (26% versus 18%), and musculoskeletal and joint disease (30% versus 22%). All of these categories had a P-value of <0.001. Other categories, such as gastrointestinal (24% versus 18%), infections (42% versus 35%), skin (24% versus 19%) had a P-value of <0.01, while respiratory diseases (18% versus 21%) had a P-value of <0.05. Total prescribing volume was significantly higher for the group with obesity and was increased in the region of two- to fourfold in a wide range of prescribing categories: ulcer healing drugs, lipid regulators, β-adrenoreceptor drugs, drugs affecting the rennin angiotensin system, calcium channel blockers, antibacterial drugs, sulphonylureas, biguanides, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) (P<0.001) and fibrates, angiotensin II antagonists, and thyroid drugs (P<0.05). The main impact on prescribing volumes is from numbers of patients treated, although in some areas there is an effect from greater dosage or longer treatment in those who are obese including calcium channel blockers, antihistamines, hypnotics, drugs used in the treatment of nausea and vertigo, biguanides, and NSAIDs (P<0.05) reflected in significantly increased defined daily dose prescribing.
Language eng
Field of Research 1117 Public Health And Health Services
Socio Economic Objective 929999 Health not elsewhere classified
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2005, Royal College of General Practitioners
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