EASO continues to advocate for fair and equitable healthcare policies that support the needs of all citizens with obesity; we defends our ability as health professionals to deliver obesity management services
In recent developments, The Belgian Working Group on Availability of Medicines proposed to ban Ozempic prescriptions (semaglutide) for people with obesity who do not have Type 2 Diabetes. This was ostensibly due to a shortage of Ozempic, but would have violated patients’ rights and discriminated against people with obesity under Belgian law.
EASO, the European Association for the Study of Obesity in collaboration with the President of our Belgian Member Association Prof. Bart Van der Schueren, and the Diabetes Liga, the main Diabetes Patient Organization in Belgium, worked together to prevent the ban. They argued that the ban would violate patients’ rights to continuity of care and freedom from discrimination on the grounds of health status. They also pointed out that obesity is a already chronic disease that requires long-term treatment and management.
Thanks to the combined efforts of EASO, the Diabetes Liga, and the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products Working Group, the proposed ban was overturned and new rules identifying who is eligible to receive Ozempic prescriptions were established. Ozempic is now only allowed to be prescribed to people with severe obesity, people with obesity and another serious weight-related condition, and newly diagnosed obesity patients who meet certain criteria.
This is a positive step forward for people with obesity in Belgium and ensures that they will continue to have access to this important medication.
Jacqueline Bowman-Busato, EASO Head of Policy and resident in Belgium, has been closely following these developments.
“I find it extremely disappointing that there could even be a consideration of unilaterally banning ongoing treatments for people with obesity in Belgium. Firstly, in Belgium, there has been Patients’ Rights legislation since 2002, which is also reflected in the EU Crossborder Healthcare Directive. These laws clearly guarantee the right to continuity of care for all healthcare system users, including people living with obesity who have been prescribed a specific treatment.
Secondly, discrimination based on health status is illegal in Belgium, as stated by the Belgian Equalities Body – UNIA. Obesity, recognized as a disease by the WHO since 1948, is diagnosed and treated as such in Belgium.
Thirdly, considering that Belgium just announced its EU Presidency mantra as Care, preparedness, and protection, it is astonishing that such a suggestion could even be discussed within the Availability of Medicines Working Group. I was so encouraged by the way Belgium had finally developed and funded a childhood obesity National Plan which includes health service delivery. This proposed move would have set us back considerably.”
Rachel Waerniers of UNIA, the Belgian Antidiscrimination Government Agency, said
“Obesity prejudices and stereotypes lead to exclusion from jobs, services, activities, etc. The Belgian Anti-Discrimination law prohibits discrimination based on several protected grounds, three of which can be legally linked to obesity, regardless of size — health status, disability, and physical appearances. This means discriminating against someone due to obesity is prohibited.”