Obesity puts a burden on so many aspects of life that the socioeconomic cost is almost inevitably enormous—as well as challenging to quantify. At the individual level, there is the lower quality of life, days missed from work, decreased wages, premature retirement, potentially unemployment, and the medical costs of related illnesses, which may include depression, cardiovascular disease, joint and arthritic problems, diabetes, stroke, etc. At the societal level, there is the mounting healthcare bill, as well as the increased costs falling upon employers due to missed work days. The healthcare bill would increase even if no one in the US was obese, because of the wave of aging baby boomers. But add to this wave the additional costs of treating the co-morbidities of obesity, and the magnitude of the wave increases significantly.
Co-Morbidities Linked to Obesity
- Heart disease
- Cancer of the breast, gallbladder, cervix, uterus, ovaries (for women), and of colon, rectum and prostate (for men).
- Gallstones or gallbladder disease
- Gout (joint pain caused by excess uric acid)
- Breathing problems such as sleep apnea, and aggravation of asthma
- High levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Complications of pregnancy
- Irregular menstrual cycles and infertility
- Psychological and social effects, such as depression, isolation, discrimination, lower earning power.
Source: MedMarket Diligence Report #S825, Worldwide Market for the Clinical Management of Obesity, 2004 to 2015
The ideal treatment for weight loss is lifestyle modification through diet and exercise. However, the compliance rate for this method of treatment is very low: according to some studies, less than 2% of obese people who lose excess weight through diet and exercise are successful in keeping it off for two or more years. Researchers have concluded that, given the current available treatments, the only effective, long-term treatment for morbid obesity is bariatric surgery. Any eventual drug treatment for overweight and mild obesity is likely to involve combination therapy; i.e., the prescription of two or more drugs, in addition to lifestyle changes, in order for the patient to successfully lose the excess weight and keep it off.
There continues to be a private sector market for these devices. Patients may resort to private payment for the surgery for one or more reasons, such as long waits, perhaps years, for the surgery; little or no insurance coverage for the device and surgery; or lack of regulatory approval for the device in the patient’s country. Some patients travel to other countries where the procedure may be available more quickly or at a lower price. However, the majority of the recorded surgical procedures are performed under insurance coverage; relatively few patients can afford to pay out of pocket for surgery that may cost $25,000-30,000 or more, including medical follow-up, travel, nursing care, special nutritional needs, etc.
All in all, there is a strong market for the clinical management of obesity. That market for the clinical management of obesity (prescription drugs, devices) is forecast over the next 10 years to grow at a revenue compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.2%, and a unit CAGR of approximately 19%. That figure includes prescription drugs for weight loss and maintenance, over-the-counter alli from GlaxoSmithKline; devices used in bariatric surgery; and the predicted sales of drugs and devices with anticipated market launches during this time frame.