Why Big Pharma Is Struggling to Profit From the Obesity Epidemic

Why Big Pharma Is Struggling to Profit From the Obesity Epidemic

Why Big Pharma Is Struggling To Profit From The Obesity Epidemic

In a decades-long struggle to control her weight, Carolyn Mills joined the YMCA many times, signed up for the Jenny Craig diet program and tried fen-phen, the narcotic combination afterwards found to damage heart valves. As her sizing yo-yoed down and back up, her health deteriorated.

She eventually discovered the answer in a new class of medications. Now, those drugs and changes to her diet have helped Mills cut her weight to 250 pounds( 113 kilograms) from 300 pounds over the last six months. The drawback: her out-of-pocket expenditures are almost $300 a month and may head higher. She says it’s worth the cost.

Why Big Pharma Is Struggling To Profit From The Obesity Epidemic
Carolyn Mills
Source: Carolyn Mills

” Obesity haunts me ,” said Mills, 62.

Mills highlights the difficulties big pharma faces as it seeks to profit from an epidemic that are affecting more than 600 million adults worldwide. Medications like Novo Nordisk A/ S‘s Saxenda, the latest one used by the Boston resident, are safer and more effective than past treatments. Yet employers and insurers are reluctant to cover the drugs, entailing the cost often falls on patients’ shoulders, limiting the potential market.

Drugmakers such as Novartis AG, Novo and Sanofi are pushing ahead, testing even more advanced medications they hope will deliver greater weight loss than the narcotics available today. Once seen as a problem merely in wealthier countries, obesity is on the rise in lower-income regions too, increasing the risks of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. That creates health costs and contributes to millions of deaths per year. More than a third of U.S. adults fall into that category.

Why Big Pharma Is Struggling To Profit From The Obesity Epidemic

” Given the public-health crisis around the world with obesity, if we can find a medication that has strong efficacy and reasonable tolerability there’s no question there’s a very large market here and it would potentially have a big impact on health care ,” told Vas Narasimhan, global head of drug developing at Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis.

The industry faces obstacles over and above the absence of coverage. Modest weight-loss the outcome and criticism of medication as a style to treat obesity mean merely 2 percent of excessively overweight people rely on medications. The history in the field is also littered with failings, inducing some producers leery.

In 2008, a Sanofi weight-loss narcotic was taken off the market in Europe amid concerns it could lead to depression and suicidal believes, while Pfizer Inc . and Merck& Co . ended obesity programs the same year. Those medications were designed to suppress appetite by blocking the same brain receptor that stimulates marijuana smokers hungry.

” There’s a gold mine available ,” said Ralph Abraham, a doctor at London Medical, a clinic in the U.K. capital that started a weight-management program incorporating Saxenda.” But it’s also been a graveyard in the past .”

Scientists are depicting lessons from treating a related cancer: diabetes. Saxenda, which has a list price of more than $1,000 a month and has been sold in the U.S. for two years, has the same key ingredient as Novo’s diabetes medicine Victoza and runs like a hormone the body makes naturally that governs appetite. Some physicians said they’re comfortable with Saxenda because they’ve been prescribing Victoza for years.

Why Big Pharma Is Struggling To Profit From The Obesity Epidemic

While Saxenda is relatively small today, its sales are forecast to climb to more than$ 1 billion within five years from about $240 million last year, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Four other obesity drugs tracked by Datamonitor Healthcare–Contrave, Qsymia, Belviq and Xenical–accounted for simply $280 million in marketings in 2016. The world markets for such narcotics is projected to climb to about $24 billion in a decade from about$ 1 billion last year, London-based consulting firm Visiongain estimates.

The average weight loss of 5 percentage to 10 percent that patients insure with the existing narcotics doesn’t” knock your socks off ,” said Robert Eckel, a doctor and professor who focuses on obesity and diabetes at the University of Colorado. He said he’s only prescribed Saxenda” a couple of days because there are few people who are willing to pay that much for it .”

The next generation of medications could work better.

Novartis has a treatment in mid-stage exams who are likely help patients lose 10 percent to 15 percent of their weight, or even more, if trends seen in early examines continue, Narasimhan said. The company will decide how to proceed based on data due next year.

In the past” we could never thread the needle ,” he told.” Now we have more mechanisms that we can take forward .”

An experimental medication Novo is developing showed in early studies it can achieve weight loss of as much as 14 percentage, the company said last month. Blending it with other medications could ultimately make it even more potent, leading to a possible reduced to more than 20 percent, Chief Science Officer Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen said in an interview.

Obese patients sometimes stop taking the medications and regain weight when they consider outcomes plateau, and new and improved medications may encourage people to stick with them, Thomsen told. Weight loss approaching 15 percent or 20 percent” would be a major breakthrough ,” told Eric Ravussin, a specialist at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana.

Sanofi is evaluating a drug in obese patients with diabetes that has potential to move closer to the results of surgery, said Stefan Oelrich, head of its diabetes division. People who opt for bariatric surgery can lose more than 30 percentage of excess body weight within six months. AstraZeneca Plc at the same day said it’s developing a diabetes treatment that may have potential in obesity and other metabolic diseases.

Louis Aronne, a doctor at Weill-Cornell Medicine in New York, compared obesity to hypertension, which was once regarded as a lifestyle issue and is now a field with scores of drugs. He predicted that every major medical institution would have a program focused on the disease within a decade.

Read more on the obesity epidemic: QuickTake

Several insurers in Canada have picked up Saxenda, and health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have agreed to pay for some patients in public hospitals, according to Novo. In the U.S ., legislation was re-introduced in April aimed partly at improving access to weight-loss medications for Medicare beneficiaries. It’s hard to predict how policies will play out as Republicans seek to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, but the Obesity Society, a research group, called the proposal a key step in tackling a disease that contributes to $200 billion a year in health costs.

Doctors are gaining a better understanding of the biology of the condition, increasingly seeing obesity as a disease, while there are signs that more insurers are encompassing medication, said Caroline Apovian, the Boston Medical Center specialist who treated Mills.

“We’ve learned a lot,” she said.” The treatment of obesity will prevent many other serious ailments that in the long term will save us fund .”

Mills, an operations manager at a dental practise, said she’s swimming and trying to be more active to build on the progress she’s made with drugs.

” We’re reaching the tipping point with the percentage of people who are so overweight ,” she told.” It’s my hope that the tide is changing and people are understanding it’s not just a matter of pushing yourself away from the table .”

Why Big Pharma Is Struggling To Profit From The Obesity Epidemic
Why Big Pharma Is Struggling To Profit From The Obesity Epidemic
Why Big Pharma Is Struggling To Profit From The Obesity Epidemic
Why Big Pharma Is Struggling To Profit From The Obesity Epidemic
Why Big Pharma Is Struggling To Profit From The Obesity Epidemic

Why Big Pharma Is Struggling To Profit From The Obesity Epidemic

Why Big Pharma Is Struggling To Profit From The Obesity Epidemic

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