Landmark Issue of PharmacoEconomics Journal -- "Economic Consequences of Obesity" -- Highlights Significant Cost and Impact of the Global Obesity Epidemic 

Date:July 22, 2015
Contact:Suzanne Fletcher

  • Research edited by Analysis Group represents essential reading for all stakeholders, including policy makers, decision makers, clinicians, and researchers
  • Obesity is a growing epidemic and threat to global health care systems, and -- as the key underlying driver behind heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and diabetes -- may be the deadliest disease
  • For U.S. payers alone, the economic burden of obesity exceeds 20% of total health expenditures --  hundreds of billions of dollars -- and continues to grow with increasing obesity rates
  • Although effective surgical and pharmaceutical treatments are essential to curb the obesity epidemic and have proven economic benefits, they remain difficult for patients to access due to outdated reimbursement and coverage policies; investment in these therapies remains marginal
  • Similarly, obesity research and investment in obesity treatments has been negatively impacted by the risk of drug safety litigation, and challenging regulatory and payer access environments

Boston -- New obesity research from some of the world's leading experts -- assembled into a single issue of the journal PharmacoEconomics -- underscores the massive economic burden that obesity places on patients, payers, providers, and regulators.

The prevalence of obesity remains high worldwide, and the disease and its associated comorbidities have a significant impact on health care costs, patient wellness, and quality of life. Although previous efforts to combat the disease had been largely preventive and were associated with patient lifestyle choices, today there is an increased call for more comprehensive treatments in both prevention and management of obesity.

Analysis Group, a leading provider of economic analysis, outcomes, epidemiology, and strategy expertise in the health care industry, collated the research and provided editorial guidance for 13 research, review, and commentary articles examining the challenges of the obesity epidemic with an economic focus.

The research will be published this month in a special issue of Adis's PharmacoEconomics journal. Analysis Group Managing Principal Pierre Cremieux and Vice President Christian Frois served as guest editors of the special issue, "Economic Consequences of Obesity."

Christopher Carswell, editor of PharmacoEconomics, detailed the significance of the new edition of the journal: "This issue of PharmacoEconomics highlights the enormity and truly global nature of the challenge facing health care systems in tackling the obesity epidemic." He cited the need for "significant and effective interventions," noting, "As Dr. Frois and Dr. Cremieux state in their opening editorial 'a step change is urgently needed to scale the necessary investments to the challenges of this disease.' This issue is thus essential reading for all stakeholders, including policy makers, decision makers, clinicians, and researchers."

In this special issue, Dr. Cremieux interviewed policymakers from Brazil, Canada, China, France, and the United States on key issues, including public awareness and costs of obesity, publicly funded programs to prevent or treat obesity, parallels between treatment of obesity and anti-smoking campaigns, effective anti-obesity programs, and reimbursement regimes for obesity treatments ("Policy Makers' Views of Obesity-Related Challenges Around the World").

Dr. Cremieux said, "At a time when one in three adults worldwide are obese or overweight, the urgency of seizing new opportunities to treat obesity has never been greater." He added, "New treatments and increased stakeholder awareness indicate that technology, pharmaceutical innovations, public policy, and social awareness now offer hope in curbing the challenges of obesity. We need to seize the moment -- lives, quality of lives, and vast sums of money are at stake."

In the Issue

Additional highlights from this issue of PharmacoEconomics include:

  • Obesity epidemic is widespread and costly. Costs, morbidity, and prevalence of obesity are high. "Estimates of annual healthcare costs attributable to obesity are . . . approximately 21% of the country's healthcare expenditures." Worldwide, one in three adults is obese, and in some nations the obesity rate exceeds 50%. In the United States, the obesity rate is approximately 35%. ("The Epidemiology of Obesity: A Big Picture," Adela Hruby, Frank B. Hu)
  • Obesity is associated with increased Medicare spending. Obesity is contributing to chronic diseases, which are driving increases in Medicare spending. These increases (3.4% in 2013), in turn, contribute significantly to increases in total U.S. health care spending. ("The Effect of Obesity and Chronic Conditions on Medicare Spending, 1987-2011," Lindsay Allen, Ken Thorpe, Peter Joski)
  • Losing weight reduces costs. Reductions in body mass index (BMI) are associated with reduced total health care costs. Weight management programs to reduce an individual's BMI can help to reduce total annual health care expenditures, particularly for those with type 2 diabetes. ("The Economic Burden of Obesity by Glycemic Stage in the United States," Qian Li, Steven W. Blume, Joanna C. Huang, Mette Hammer, Thomas R. Graf)
  • Improved regulation of food advertising to children could bring significant health care savings. Preventive interventions to combat obesity and associated risk factors would offer substantial savings in high-risk, high-cost patients over the long term. ("Preventing Obesity in the USA: Impact on Health Service Utilization and Costs," Michele Cecchini, Franco Sassi)
  • Patients lack appropriate access to effective treatments. Although obesity is recognized as a disease, patient access has not kept pace with the demonstrated evidence of the clinical and economic value of treatments, such as in Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery. Despite the economic evidence, to this day, few U.S. health care plans provide coverage for obesity treatments absent morbid obesity and comorbid conditions. ("Gap Between Evidence and Patient Access: Policy Implications for Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery in the Treatment of Obesity and its Complications," Amarpreet S. Chawla, Chia-Wen Hsiao, Martha C. Romney, Ricardo Cohen, Francesco Rubino, Philip Schauer, Pierre Cremieux)
  • Risk of litigation could stifle investment in obesity treatments. Despite the unmet need for anti-obesity pharmaceutical treatments, the risk of litigation has negatively impacted the development of these drugs. ("The Expected Net Present Value of Developing Weight Management Drugs in the Context of Drug Safety Litigation," Anita Chawla, Ginger Carls, Edmund Deng, Edward Tuttle)

Authors who contributed to the issue include Analysis Group Managing Principals Anita Chawla, Pierre Cremieux, and Edward Tuttle, Vice President Christian Frois, Manager Ginger Carls, and Associate Edmund Deng, as well as researchers from academic institutions that include "Alma Mater Studiorum" University (Bologna, Italy); Cornell University Department of Policy Analysis and Management (Ithaca, N.Y., U.S.A.); Duke University Global Health Institute (Durham, N.C., U.S.A.); Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School (Singapore); Emory University (Atlanta, G.A., U.S.A.); Harvard University School of Public Health (Cambridge, M.A., U.S.A.); Imperial College (London, U.K.); King's College (London, U.K.); Lehigh University (Bethlehem, P.A., U.S.A.); University of Messina (Messina, Italy); Thomas Jefferson University School of Population Health (Philadelphia, P.A., U.S.A.); and University of Southern California Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics (Los Angeles, C.A., U.S.A.). Other contributors include researchers, decision makers, and policy makers from numerous stakeholder organizations.

About PharmacoEconomics

The benchmark journal on the applications of pharmacoeconomics and quality-of-life assessment, PharmacoEconomics is an invaluable source of applied original research and educational material for health care decision makers. Published by Adis, the peer-reviewed journal is dedicated to the clear communication of complex pharmacoeconomic issues related to patient care and drug utilization. For more information or to purchase a copy of the journal, visit PharmacoEconomics.

About Analysis Group

With more than 600 professionals, many with advanced degrees and expertise in health outcomes research, epidemiology, strategy, biostatistics, economics, and other quantitative disciplines, Analysis Group ( has established a leadership role in the science, economics, and business strategy of the global health care industry. The firm's 11 offices are located in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Menlo Park, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.; and internationally in Montreal and Beijing.