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Obesity pharmacotherapy in older adults: a narrative review of evidence.

The prevalence of obesity in older adults (people aged >60 years) is increasing in line with the demographic shift in global populations. Despite knowledge of obesity-related complications in younger adults (increased risk of type 2 diabetes, liver and cardiovascular disease and malignancy), these considerations may be outweighed, in older adults, by concerns regarding weight-loss induced reduction in skeletal muscle and bone mass, and the awareness of the 'obesity paradox'. Obesity in the elderly contributes to various obesity-related complications from cardiometabolic disease and cancer, to functional decline, worsening cognition, and quality of life, that will have already suffered an age-related decline. Lifestyle interventions remain the cornerstone of obesity management in older adults, with emphasis on resistance training for muscle strength and bone mineral density preservation. However, in older adults with obesity refractory to lifestyle strategies, pharmacotherapy, using anti-obesity medicines (AOMs), can be a useful adjunct. Recent evidence suggests that intentional weight loss in older adults with overweight and obesity is effective and safe, hence a diminishing reluctance to use AOMs in this more vulnerable population. Despite nine AOMs being currently approved for the treatment of obesity, limited clinical trial evidence in older adults predominantly focuses on incretin therapy with glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (liraglutide, semaglutide, and tirzepatide). AOMs enhance weight loss and reduce cardiometabolic events, while maintaining muscle mass. Future randomised controlled trials should specifically evaluate the effectiveness of novel AOMs for long-term weight management in older adults with obesity, carefully considering the impact on body composition and functional ability, as well as health economics.

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