With the prevailing lifestyle trends and work culture, most people are prone to being overweight or obese. The demographic of people diagnosed with obesity is constantly weighing down the healthy population. This area has thus provides extensive research opportunities to the pharmaceuticals and healthcare fields. The raised concern can also be attributed to the fact that obesity doesn’t continue as a sole health problem. It progresses to lead to varied chronic ailments thus reducing the life expectancy of a person.
Obesity has been identified to have genetic pre-disposition factors along with being caused by excessive food intake and lack of regular physical activity. But can any of these be resolved with medication?
Drug discovery and development
Developing a drug for obesity is difficult because mechanisms that regulate energy-balance in the body are in constant interaction with a number of physiological systems. The current understanding of human physiology suggests that the number of mechanisms for energy homeostasis and appetite regulation makes it difficult to engineer drugs for obesity. While targeting neurotransmission (for hunger and satiety) seems like the best alternative, it has a wide range of side effects.
Body-weight is also affected by psychological and social factors. So, it is a common belief that pharmacotherapy cannot solve the problem of obesity. Moreover, since weight gain results from lifestyle alterations, most people feel that behavioral changes alone can help weight management. But one needs to be informed that anti-obesity drugs exist and can help a person lose up to 5-15% of his body weight. This, however, lasts only till the treatment goes on. The maintenance of the weight loss differs in different subsets of individuals.
Is the shrink brought about without the suppression of diet?
The expansion of the Anti-Obesity Drugs Market stems from the FDA’s approval of five different kinds of drugs for weight management, each of which has a different mechanism of action.
- Phentermine/Topiramate ER
Phentermine works on the nervous system to suppress appetite. It is also known to increase metabolism. The exact mode of action of the secondary compound, Topiramate, has not been elucidated. The two components are packed in a gelatin capsule, the former designed for immediate release and the latter in beads for extended release. The combination was shown to work with good efficiency in clinical trials.
Orlistat falls in the lipase-inhibitor category of drugs. It works to prevent the absorption of fats by the intestines. The drug has to be supplemented with an everyday exercise routine for an efficient weight loss.
Serotonin is a chemical substance in the body that signals satiety. Lorcaserin targets serotonin receptors in the hypothalamus region of the brain to inhibit appetite. Since it interferes with neurotransmission, its intake should be with great care.
- Naltrexone SR/Bupropion SR
This combination of drugs works on the hypothalamic melanocortin system and the mesolimbic reward system to reduce appetite. Although developed to help overcoming alcohol and opioid dependence, it is now also associated with weight reduction.
- Liraglutide 3.0 mg
Liraglutide can be used as an adjunct to a low-calorie diet for weight management. It delays gastric emptying and decreases hepatic glucose production to bring about a loss in weight.
The market size of these drugs:
Although there has been considerable research, the commercialization of the products has been less. Even the aforementioned drugs come with packaged warnings of a number of serious side effects. This indicates that no ideal anti-obesity drug has been established. The ideal one should cause minimal side-effects and the sustenance of weight loss should be prolonged. To attain a control over body-weight through drugs to the same extent as a surgery has not been possible so far. Global market research reports thus suggest many opportunities for entry into the field.
There must be a detailed behavioral analysis at various stages of drug development. This will help monitor the working of the drug at the molecular level. Only a recognized pattern of the physiological responses can aid the development of an ideal anti-obesity drug.