According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are over 78 million adults in the United States as of 2012, with 30% being severely obese. Obesity is defined by an individual whose body mass index (BMI) is greater than 30.

These individuals have an increased risk of premature death and an increased risk of 40 obesity-related medical conditions (comorbidities). These include Type II Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obstructive sleep apnea. Ultimately metabolic and bariatric surgery options are a long-lasting and efficient treatment method for obesity. Read more about the risks and benefits of bariatric surgery.

Learn More: How to Know if I am Obese?

Weight Loss and Medication

A new study entitled “Bariatric Surgery Reduces National Medication Utilization in the Long Term,” presented at the 31st Annual Meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery During Obesity Week 2014, shows that obesity patients take fewer medications after their weight loss surgery.

This study compares weight loss surgery to patients with non-surgery patients. The study reports that surgery patients spend 22.4% less on diabetes and heart disease drugs after four post-ops. Obesity Week is the largest international event that focuses on the science, clinic applications, prevention, and treatment of obesity and morbid obesity.

According to the study’s author John M. Morton, MD, Chief, Bariatric and Minimally Invasive Surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine, as patients lose weight after their bariatric surgery, they see significant improvements in comorbidities such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. However, patients who didn’t opt for surgery see their conditions worsen over time. “This study shows these trends have significant cost implications for patients and the healthcare system at large,” Morton said.

The study used Truven Health Analytics MarketScan® Commercial Claims and Encounters Database to look at 2,700 different laparoscopic gastric bypass and gastric band weight loss surgery patients before and after surgery. They compared those findings to an equal number of non-surgery patients with similar health status and body mass index ratings.

About the Study

According to the study, in the year before surgery, patients spent, on average, $3,098 on medicine than the non-surgery patient who spent just $2,303 (about $192 a month). However, just 12 months later, those who didn’t opt for surgery were spending more on medicine at $2,407 versus $2,209 for surgery patients. This trend continued for the duration of the study.

According to the four-year period studied, patients with obesity had nearly $9,900 in pharmacy costs while surgery patients spent $8,411, which is a 22.4% difference over that time. The difference is dramatic when the researchers studied the change in the number of medicines after bariatric surgery procedures. The use of diabetes drugs lowered nearly 73.7%, and cardiac and hypertensive medications dropped by approximately 47%.

Modern bariatric surgery can cut your diabetes medicines by almost three-quarters, reduce your heart medication by close to half and lower your pharmacy bill by more than 20 percent. [Ultimately], the impact of bariatric surgery on medication utilization is significant,” co-author Ninh T. Nguyen, MD, vice-chair of the UC Irvine Department of Surgery and chief of gastrointestinal surgery, said the president of American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, nearly 179,000 individuals had weight loss surgery last year, ranging from $17,000 to $30,000. The cost depends on the geography where the operation is taking place and the surgical method is chosen. The society found that the health improvements associated with bariatric surgery are astounding yet only less than 1% of eligible patients opt for this successful treatment option.