Obesity’s outlook unchanged

Drugs for the clinical treatment of obesity have taken hits over the past year.  Denied regulatory approvals, market withdrawals and the resulting industry moves, if projected going forward, leave an overall negative impression of the market.  However, describing the "current" market for obesity drugs based on the "past as prologue" would be an incomplete picture.  Certainly, the attitude of the FDA in rejecting Arena's Lorcaserin and Orexigen's Contrave, as well the withdrawal by Abbott of Meridia and similar developments have tempered the "optimism" of obesity drug developers.  But optimism remains, stemming from an overwhelming need and therefore opportunity for obesity drugs.  


Source: "Products, Technologies and Markets Worldwide for the Clinical Management of Obesity, 2011-2019." Report #S835 (copyright 2011, MedMarket Diligence, LLC).

Simultaneously, medical device development — restrictive devices, artificial fullness, malabsorption, gastric emptying, and appetite suppression devices — continue to see strong growth (i.e., double-digit CAGR) as approved devices see expanded indications (e.g., Lap Band) and new devices are steadily introduced to the market.

Surgical procedures and device implantation, however much they may avoid the challenges of drug complications (or just the FDA's perceptions), are not free of challenges (including, of course, the need for surgery that is in many cases invasive), such as that there is a growing recognition that these are not permanent fixes and may require that expensive repeat procedures by done.

The short-term view of the obesity drug market is that it is "dead", or at least on life support, but given the current market for obesity management products ($billions) and the indisputable accelerated growth in obesity prevalence and the recognition in the healthcare arena of obesity's co-morbidity costs, one must conclude that the short-term view is not going to hold for very long, at least not by many who are motivated by opportunity.

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