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Laparoscopic bariatric surgery in England

A study by Elaine Burns and colleagues published in the BMJ describes the large increase in NHS laparoscopic bariatric surgery operations observed in recent years, with an increase from 238 operations in 2000 to 2543 in 2007. Recent years have also seen large increases in NHS prescribing and spending on drugs for obesity. For example, a study published in the Journal of Public Health Medicine reported that between 1998 and 2005, Orlistat prescriptions in England rose 36-fold from 17,880 to 646,700 and their total cost increased by over 35-fold to £27 million. Sibutramine prescriptions rose from 53,393 in 2001 to around 227,000 in 2005, a 4-fold increase, at a cost of £11 million in 2005.Despite this increased spending on medical and surgical NHS interventions, rates of obesity continue to increase inexorably and around 25% of adults in England are now considered to be obese, with a BMI of 30 or greater.The failure of medical treatments for obesity is further illustrated by the subsequent withdrawal of Rimonabant and Sibutramine because of concerns about their safety. Although medical and surgical treatments have an important role in the management of obesity, particularly in some high risk groups, the key to tackling obesity lies in wider societal approaches, involving joint working between the NHS, local and national government, and the private sector.  

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