Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Market for Obesity Drugs

Generally, there are three approaches to weight loss and weight management. They are lifestyle modification, including diet and exercise, bariatric or weight loss surgery, and obesity drugs. While each approach can be successful, each approach has its associated problems. Changes in lifestyle are hard to adhere to long term. Bariatric surgery is usually advocated for those who are severely obese, while giving rise to serious complications. And obesity drugs have often produced disappointing results, and caused medical problems including cardiovascular issues and thoughts of suicide.

However, two obesity drugs, Qsymia and Belviq, have recently gained FDA approval. And another obesity drug, Contrave, is expected to be approved by the FDA this year. That being the case, it might make sense to look at how the market, especially the forces of supply and demand, perceive these drugs.
 
The three companies producing these drugs are Arena Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Belviq, Vivus, the maker of Qsymia, and Orexigen Therapeutics, the maker of Contrave. For Qsymia and Belviq, the European health authorities are presenting a road block to overseas sales by either refusing to approve the drug, as in the case of Qsymia, or indicating that they, the authorities, might not approve the drug in the future, as in the case of Belviq.

Further, in the U.S., Qsymia and Belviq are to be regulated at the state and federal levels because the drugs are deemed to have addictive qualities. Qsymia has been assigned a controlled substance schedule designation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Belviq is also likely to get a DEA designation.

Still, “the obesity drug market is expected to be in the billions of dollars.” And Orexigen’s obesity drug, Contrave, is expected to be approved without a DEA controlled substance designation. Since Contrave is considered to be less harmful than Qsymia or Belviq, Contrave might be the marketing winner. At any rate, we may know soon, since Orexigen has worked with the FDA to accelerate the Contrave review process. And with an expected successful review, the drug will be approved, then put on the market.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Obesity in Childhood Can Have Lasting Effects

Obesity continues to be a serious problem worldwide.  Approximately one third of the U.S. population is obese. And many experts are trying to come up with ways to fight the disease. Fighting obesity is important since obesity is associated with a number of serious illnesses. Some of the illnesses are well known obesity-related ailments, but the number of these ailments may be greater than first thought. And the risk for obesity-related illnesses can start in childhood, with childhood obesity.

It is generally agreed that childhood obesity puts children at a higher risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease at some point in life. "But a large new study has found that obesity can also put children at risk for 20 other surprising health problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, allergies and ear infections. So curbing childhood obesity is important for the future."

Fortunately, there has been some success in the fight against childhood obesity. For example, the New York State WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program has helped New York reduce its childhood obesity. And Los Angeles has also introduced programs that have caused a decline in the disease.

However, many locales have not had the success that New York and Los Angeles have experienced. Success is hampered by many circumstances. One of these circumstances is the problem associated with accurately assessing obesity. Obesity is commonly measured using BMI.  BMI  is computed by dividing the weight of a person in kilograms (kg) by the person's height in meters (m) squared.  Weight and height are often self reported.  Because height is often overestimated, and weight is frequently underestimated, BMI is commonly underestimated.

But even with imperfect measuring methods and other problems,  specific steps can be taken to reduce childhood obesity as New York and Los Angeles have demonstrated. And more initiatives by stakeholders in more communities will continue to put a dent in childhood obesity. These initiatives can lessen the chances that children will face numerous illnesses in adulthood. Indeed, curbing childhood obesity is a problem requiring healthcare providers, policy makers, and citizens to work together to effectively solve the problem.

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