Thursday, November 1, 2012

Obesity In The U.S.

Obesity has become a big problem in America not only does it add a huge cost to the already troubled health care system but it most importantly puts people at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke.  Pinpointing the major factor that has led to the ascent of weight in the U.S. population is debatable but we can get an idea as to why: lack of exercise, lack of education, bigger food portions, technology, anxiety and unemployment.  Having a sedentary lifestyle in a world ruled by computers and fast food spells disaster to one's health.  We live in an environment where all our major life activities can be done from home with little if any physical activity.  We can work from home, pay bills and do banking, get entertainment (Netflix, Youtube), eat (Domino's, Fresh Direct), socialize (FB, Skype, Text) and shop with very little physical activity. 

According to the Center for Disease Control obesity has increased in every state according to their Overweight and Obesity Data.  In 2011 Colorado had the lowest percentage of obesity cases 20.7% and Mississippi had the highest 34.9%.  There are ways to help us with the fight against the pounds  supplements that suppress appetite and shakes that fill us with protein, their efficiency debatable, if the obesity gets out of hand then bariatric surgery is the alternative.  The FDA has not approved a drug treatment for obesity in 10 years until now Qysmia from Vivus (VVUS) and Belviq from Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA).  Vivus is trying to get approval for the drug to be carried in retail pharmacies so far it has beat Belviq by being the first to reach the market through mail order pharmacies, in 2013 Belviq is expected to go on sale.  Both stocks have seen their share of high volatility but Vivus has had quite the roller coaster ride its 52 week range 8.60 - 31.21 says it all.  In September the stock was at 24 now it trades in the 14 point range the rise was in anticipation of sales the drop came after news that Europe would not recommend Qysmia due to concerns about safety.

Both drugs have their challenges ahead there is controversy in regards to which of the two drugs is more safe and which is more effective.  As with pharmaceutical companies and their stock prices there are times when FDA approval sends the stock to the moon, then reality kicks in when sales come in lower than expected lassoing the stock back down from the clouds.  We saw it happen with Human Genome Sciences and their treatment for lupus (Benlysta) investors that held on to the stock took the loss as HGSI is no longer listed GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) acquired them.  Vivus is likely to miss the analyst forecast for sales in the fourth quarter based on the amount of prescriptions doctors have written so far according to IMS Health, it will report third quarter results on November 6th.  In the midst of the battle of the two drugs another challenger emerges Orexigen Therapeutics (OREX) with its two candidates Contrave which has completed its phase III clinical trials and Empatic which has completed its phase II clinical trials.  Both are combination drugs that treat obesity both drugs use Bupropion which acts on the weight control circuit by stimulating the POMC neuron it is believed to increase the level of dopamine activity in certain receptors in the brain and thus lower appetite.  Mutations in the POMC gene have been associated with obesity and adrenal insufficiency.  Contrave if approved can be a game changer in the fight against obesity since it addresses the reward system in the brain that causes food cravings.

File:Obesity state level estimates 1985-2010.gif

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