What is obesity?
Obesity is a chronic condition that develops when energy intake exceeds energy expenditure, resulting in excessive body weight.
Medical opinions concerning obesity have shifted in recent years: in the past it was thought to be a ‘lifestyle’ disorder – a result of overeating and laziness; today, medical experts recognize obesity to be medical disease that manifests serious co-morbidities if left untreated.
Although the true cause remains unclear, medical and scientific evidence suggests that obesity results from dysfunctional biological mediators of weight regulation, a genetic predisposition to fatness, aging, sociocultural and/or environmental influences. It is also more commonly accepted that obesity results from an excessive dietary fat intake and low levels of physical activity, commensurate with affluent industrialized lifestyles.
Regardless of etiological standpoint, obesity is increasing in many countries and contributes a significant burden to healthcare costs of nations worldwide. In Europe, more than 15% of the population are obese and in US this figure doubles to more than 30% (50% including overweight).
The international Obesity Task Force in collaboration with the World Health Organization estimates that there are more than 250 million obese people around the world today, which they predict will rise dramatically in both developed and non-developed countries this coming century. Economic analysts indicate that the global direct and indirect costs of obesity range from 4-10% of total healthcare budgets.
In the US alone, total cost of obesity have reached more than $100 billion. Direct cost alone ($52 billion) represents 6% of the total US healthcare expenditures. Yet, until now medical treatments for obesity are limited and have harmful side effects.
Recently two new anti-obesity drugs (Hoffman LaRoche’s Orlistat and Knoll’s Meridia®) have turned the obesity market on its head.
Despite their lack of efficiency and their substantial side effects, these new drugs reached sales of several billion dollars.
They transformed the market into a multi billion dollar industry, offering tremendous rewards for all involved. In fact, an efficient obesity treatment drug could easily reach several billion dollars in sales within few years being on the market.