Obesity's high and growing prevalence, combined with a lack so far of a really effective long-term solution, is responsible for the development of so many different treatment options spanning over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, metabolic/bariatric surgery, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
For the sake of illustration, it's worthwhile to see these options laid out graphically:
Source: Drawn from Report #S835, "Products, Technologies and Markets Worldwide for the Clinical Management of Obesity, 2011-2019."
Market drivers in the treatment of obesity are strong, and include the fact that there is a significant unmet need: pharmaceuticals by and large do not work well, and may have objectionable side effects. For morbid obesity, the only known effective treatment is gastric bypass. For the hundreds of millions of individuals who are obese but not in the category of morbid obesity, there are very few treatment alternatives. Treatment is not a ‘one size fits all’ situation. The complexity of the human organism, combined with the multifactorial roots of obesity, means that physicians will need to have several options to offer to patients, as one that works well with one patient may not work with another. In addition, the fact that anti-obesity drugs are failing to win the recommendation of the US FDA advisory panels means that the door remains wide open for the development and commercialization of device treatments.
The MedMarket Diligence Report #S835 suggests a number of strategies for exploiting the largely unmet market need for efficacious, safe treatments for obesity. These include developing a drug to treat Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), which also causes attractive weight loss. The company could obtain market approval for the drug first as a treatment for diabetes, and then as a treatment for obesity, by applying for a label extension. Obtaining attractive coverage for the drug or device is critical to market success; discussions with third party payers should be started early in the development process. Offering the anti-obesity product through other routes, such as cosmetic surgery centers, is an additional strategy, one which would target those already willing to pay out of pocket for treatments.