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Int J Obes (Lond). 2013 Aug;37 Suppl 1:S31-7. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2013.94.

Cost-effectiveness of a primary care intervention to treat obesity.

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Division of General Internal Medicine, Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.



Data on the cost-effectiveness of the behavioral treatment of obesity are not conclusive. The cost-effectiveness of treatment in primary care settings is particularly relevant.


We conducted a within-trial cost-effectiveness analysis of a primary care-based obesity intervention. Study participants were randomized to: Usual Care (UC; quarterly visits with their primary care provider); Brief Lifestyle Counseling (BLC; quarterly provider visits plus monthly weight loss counseling visits) or Enhanced Brief Lifestyle Counseling (EBLC; all above interventions, plus choice of meal replacements or weight loss medication). A health-care payer perspective was used. Intervention costs were estimated from tracking data obtained prospectively. Quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) were estimated with the EuroQol-5D. We estimated cost per kilogram-year of weight loss and cost per QALY.


Weight losses after 2 years were 1.7, 2.9 and 4.6 kg for UC, BLC and EBLC, respectively (P=0.003 for comparison of EBLC vs UC). The incremental cost per kilogram-year lost was $292 for EBLC compared with UC (95% confidence interval (CI): $219-$437). The short-term incremental cost per QALY was $115,397, but the 95% CI were undefined. Comparison of short-term cost per kg with published estimates of longer-term cost per QALY suggested that the intervention could be cost-effective over the long term (≥ 10 years).


A primary care intervention that includes monthly counseling visits and a choice of meal replacements or weight loss medication could be a cost-effective treatment for obesity over the long term. However, additional studies are needed on the cost-effectiveness of behavioral treatment of obesity.

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