Deirdre Middleton's picture

The Next Weight Loss Craze: Treatment Options

To prevent or to treat? That is the new question[[wysiwyg_imageupload:144:]]
in the obesity discussion that focuses on an area of the debate that has remained largely off the table: Treatment. Today’s ubiquitous discussion on obesity is hard to miss for good reason – 60 million adults age 20 and older are overweight and if the rates continue, by 2030, half of U.S. adults will be obese. It is a small wonder that a Google search on obesity yields more than 90 million hits or that each day we read about a new initiative to get people moving, provide health and nutritional information for consumers or exalt the latest way to eat from a generally more svelte country or region.

What each of these topics underscores is that we need to take preventive steps to stop obesity, but they don’t truly address treatment options. This is what compelled the Network to Overcome Obesity Now (NOON) – an organization sponsored by Arena Pharmaceuticals, Eisai, Orexigen Therapeutics and Takeda – to convene earlier this year  with Rep. Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and several expert panel members to further discuss obesity. Instead of beating the prevention drum, this group and the speakers are all striving for a more holistic approach to obesity that encompasses and encourages treatment options.

The surprise is that the highly stigmatized medical condition of obesity – and it is a medical condition – is still viewed as something that people can either prevent by eating better and living an active lifestyle or treat by eating less and exercising more. But, like other medical conditions, there can be other causes and the NOON group is making the argument for increased research, education and treatment options.

Some highlights of the conversation included:

  • The terms prevention and treatment are often used interchangeably. While prevention and treatment are related, treatment stops a condition from worsening. They indicated that better treatments are needed for the 93 million people that are already affected by obesity.
  • Many people incorrectly view obesity as a character flaw or as a result of behavioral choices. According to panelists, “Obesity is the disease of the diseases. Obesity is a chronic disease that we can treat, but not cure.” (Dr. Richard Atkinson)
  • Obesity has a strong biological component in terms of how the brain responds to food as well as a person’s genetic makeup. A person’s environment and upbringing also play a role. Behavioral patterns and biological influences work together to contribute to obesity.  
  • Modest weight loss can have significant health benefits. Many other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, diabetes and cancer can result from obesity.  Even a minimal weight loss can provide health benefits for people because it can help to prevent other diseases from developing.
  • Additional research, education and treatments are needed. There is no silver bullet for treatment because obesity is a highly individualized disease. But research is identifying new drug targets to treat obesity. And everyone needs more education, including physicians who are ill-equipped to help patients manage the disease.

 

As communicators, we appreciate the value in ensuring a balanced and inclusive conversation to help solve the obesity problem. And there are many elements to balance – personal responsibility, genetic predispositions and condition-causing illnesses.

We can be sure that we will see upcoming treatment options from each of these companies and more discussion on treatment and how it fits into an overall, holistic approach to solving the obesity epidemic.

Today’s environment presents us with both a tremendous opportunity and an equally great responsibility to counsel our relevant brand and food clients about their position in this conversation and how they can contribute to the prevention and treatment spectrum.

In: Consumer Health  /   filed under: obesity | weight loss