The World Health Organization for the first time, could reportedly add drugs that combat obesity to the “essential medicines list,” which would be used to guide government purchasing decisions in low- and middle-income countries.
The report published by Reuters on Wednesday, March 29 says the WHO’s panel of advisers will review new requests for drugs to be included next month, with an updated essential medicines list due in September.
The request to consider obesity drugs was submitted by three doctors and a researcher in the United States. It covers the active ingredient liraglutide in Novo Nordisk’s (NOVOb.CO) obesity drug Saxenda, which will come off patent soon, allowing for cheaper generic versions.
However, some public health experts warn against introducing such anti-obesity medicines as a solution to a complex condition that is still not completely understood.
“Obesity is an increasingly important health problem in many countries,” said a WHO spokesperson. “Medicines for the treatment of obesity are only one aspect of management, of course, and prevention is also crucial.”
Over 650 million adults worldwide are obese, more than triple the rate in 1975, and roughly another 1.3 billion are overweight, according to the WHO. The majority – 70% – live in low- and middle-income countries.
Including obesity drugs among the WHO’s essential medicines could have great significance for that population. Experts say that adding HIV drugs to the list in 2002 helped to make them much more widely available to AIDS patients in poorer countries.
Saxenda, a once-daily injection, has been shown to help people reduce 5%-10% of their body weight, at $450 per month in the United States and $150 per month in Europe.