Thursday, October 19, 2006

Access Economics on obesity

The Access Economics report on obesity in Australia was funded by Sanofi Aventis one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

SA markets the new ‘wonder’ anti-obesity drug Acomplia (Rimonabant) which some reports suggest is a fairly limited way of attempting to lose weight. SA is also, helpfully, active in the market for diabetes medications – useful since, as Access Economics report points out, obese people have 3X the chance of suffering Type 2 diabetes than the resident population. There are numerous other health consequences of obesity that SA can help with.

Why does this trouble me? Isn’t it reasonable that a pharmaceutical company like SA should be involved in promoting such research and generating demands for its products? The report itself states that the research was carried out independently of the sponsor.

Maybe but the report does produce astoundingly high total obesity costs of $21 billion. Of these $17.2 billion were ‘burden of care’ costs and only $873 million were direct health system costs. These BOC costs are based on the estimated value of a human life of $162,561 annually or $3.7 million over 40 years. These estimates seem very high – they include the mortality and morbidity costs of those affected by obesity less any costs the individuals bear themselves. The costs are borne primarily by poorer people who suffer most from obesity issues for which the annual BOC costs seem high. In addition, are these costs really costs? Is obesity the primary factor that drives the claimed health problems? The difficulty is that while we have collectively got fatter as a country we have also got fitter (see here and here) partly, no doubt due partly to improvements in medical technology.

These issues do not seem to be discussed in the Access Economics report.

Incidentally the report does favourably review the drug Acomplia (page 109).

1 comment:

Bring Back EP at Lp said...

I can't stomach this!