Approximately more than 40% of Americans are considered obese; despite this, most medications are not tested on those with bigger bodies. Drug testing rarely includes data on obese people, and it’s often excluded on purpose.
Why? Because it’s not required, and the data would show that these medications may not be as effective as they should be. Nearly half the country is left to guess how effective a medication will be, if at all. Manufacturers often make sure this is left out.
There is no question that different drugs will work differently in every person’s body. Clinical trials are supposed to track how effective a drug will be for a person of their ideal weight. However, the ‘ideal’ weight is not obese and not tested, making it difficult to know if a drug is effective for someone of any weight outside of the test group. This also leaves doctors and patients alike guessing if a drug is safe.
This lack of research isn’t just in prescription drugs; many over-the-counter medications, Advil, Nyquil and even emergency contraceptives like Plan B have left out information that accommodates people of all weight.
Christina Chow, a researcher at Emerald Lake Safety, a California company that investigates severe drug reactions, stated, “Clinical trials and dosing instructions don’t always ensure that drugs will be safe and effective for people with obesity.”
Individuals with slower metabolisms are likely to have a drug in their system longer, which can become dangerous if mixed with alcohol or other substances, including drugs that doctors may prescribe.
In 2022, FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf acknowledged the lack of sufficient evidence of how medicines act in patients who are considered obese. A spokesperson for the National Health Institute stated that the NHI now encourages researchers to expand testing to include people of different weight classes.
Freshman computer engineering major Matt Caglle recalls the time his own health became at risk, “…There was this day when I was a kid that I was home sick alone. I took the meds my doctor gave us, and it caused my kidneys to shut down. I found out later it was because I still had my other meds in my system, and they couldn’t be used in combination with these other drugs.”