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Lobbyist Money Help  

Diet drugs would be taxpayer financed

February 22, 2000
By: Rose Lukalo
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri taxpayers would pay for diet control drugs for Medicaid recipients under a proposal before Missouri lawmakers.

Rep. Lana Stokan, D-St. Louis County, is the sponsor of the bill. She told a House committee Tuesday that including FDA-approved weight control drugs under Medicaid will save the health system much more than it will cost.

Legislative staff estimate it will cost up to $50 million in the first year of implementation, a figure that Stokan challenges as being too high.

Stokan said the anti-obesity drugs were available under Medicaid during the first quarter last year until it was realized that weight-loss treatments were being prescribed.

During that period fewer than 1,500 people had prescriptions filled and Stokan said legalizing access would not necessarily create an avalanche.

Under the bill people covered by Medicaid would be able to get FDA approved anti-obesity drugs if they have a prescription from their doctor.

Witnesses said weight loss drugs would have to be combined with diet and exercise and should not be considered a magic cure for obesity.

Pharmacist Rodney Franey said it would cost about $110 a month to fill a prescription. At present levels Medicaid would only cover a third of this cost.

Committee members questioned the safety of these drug treatments which were approved last year and have been tested mostly on women.

Tests on the relationship between the drugs and bone density are still ongoing.

The drugs act by preventing the body from absorbing one third of the fat contained in food.

The bill also would require the Health Department to undertake a study on obesity in Missouri and report back by the end of December. In addition, the department would undertake awareness and prevention programs similar to the tobacco cessation campaign.

Committee member Roy Holand, R-Springfield, said with so much information available in the media he did not see the need for another study.