Fighting obesity: Past and future treatments

Obesity is quickly becoming a global epidemic. A recent report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that rates of obesity have been steadily increasing and is predicted to rise for the foreseeable future.

The top three health problems in obese patients are strokes, heart disease, and diabetes. The number of patients requiring treatments for these diseases is likely to increase.

Figure 1 shows the number of companies with a pipeline product for Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease from 2011 to 2016. It also includes data for pipeline products with a generic obesity indication.

For the last five years, Type 2 diabetes had the highest number of new pipeline products and, on average, half as many companies were developing drugs for stroke patients. Both indications followed a trend that saw peak development in 2013 followed by a sharp (40%) drop in 2014. The number of companies continued to decrease in 2015 and 2016, although at a slower rate.

Heart disease had the fewest number of companies with new pipeline products for all five years, with only nine in 2011. This had fallen to four by 2016.

Since 2013, all three indications have experienced a drop in research and development (R&D), despite the increasing rates of obesity. However, the number of new pipeline products targeted for obesity has risen since 2014. This suggests that while treatments for obesity related illnesses are plateauing, companies are looking more towards specific obesity therapies.