North American Obesity Market to Swell to $139.5B by 2017, Spells Opportunity for Device Makers

The weight loss and obesity management market is set to grow rapidly in North America, underscoring the opportunity for new-fangled medical device inventions.

July 8, 2013

3 Min Read
North American Obesity Market to Swell to $139.5B by 2017, Spells Opportunity for Device Makers

A new research report forecasts that the weight loss and obesity management market in North America will increase to $139.5 billion in 2017, up from $102 billion in 2012.

The market includes medical device products used in weight loss surgery, and the report from MarketsandMarkets underscores the opportunity for medical device manufacturers. In the medical device arena, the opportunity seems to be primarily in areas that provide patients an alternative to invasive surgery. The report said:

Minimally-invasive and non-invasive surgical procedures that use highly sophisticated equipment like endoscopes and laparoscopes have been developed. In addition, non-invasive weight loss techniques like cryolipolysis, transoral obesity revision surgery, cold laser shaping, and Stomaphyx are also gaining popularity.

It remains to be seen whether American Medical Association's decision to consider obesity a disease will have an effect on the overall size in the market. When the June decision from the AMA came down, it marked a real uproar because some believed that considering obesity a disease basically means that individual responsibility can be denied. People who lead unhealthy lifestyles can simply believe that clinical intervention is automatically required instead of a change in behavior.

The same debate has spilled over to a discussion on the LinkedIn Medical Devices Group. Politics aside, what is salient about the discussion is that some users of the group believe the growing market holds great promise for medical device inventors.

Take user Paul Stein for instance. A medical device professional, formerly with St. Jude Medical, Stein believes that medical devices will succeed in tackling the epidemic that is obesity where pharmaceutical companies have failed. Here is an edited version of his comments:

For us in the medical devices industry, we need to look at this as a tremendous opportunity to create the next generation of medical devices.

The current set of drugs, along with their toxicities, do very little. And, the one marketed medical device, the Lap Band, has proven its worth in treating obesity. But, the most important fact that needs to be soberly understood is that the little medical device company that invented that device was paid $1.2B by Allergan for it. Yes, that's a B.

One of the other very popular treatments for obesity, the vertical sleeve gastrectomy, uses several thousands of dollars of linear staples (Covidien, J&J) per procedure. Performed over a million times per year, you do the math.

Stein points to one startup that he is working with - Onciomed - that he believes has the potential to address the global obesity challenge. The Irvine, California firm has devised a minimally-invasive procedure called the GVS System that restricts food intake while providing a feeling of fullness and satiety. 

Fred Voss, another LinkedIn user who commented on the discussion, is also working on an innovative device to treat obesity while achieving the positive effects of bariatric surgery. San Clemente, California-firm PlenSat, where Voss is CEO, has developed what it calls digestible balloons. The capsules containing the balloons can be ingested over several days, thereby slowly changing stomach volume. They result in the patient feeling a sense of fullness.

The opportunity in treating obesity is not simply limited to startups though. Another LinkedIn user, Patrick Pickerell commented on how insurance reimbursement for devices used in obesity procedures as a result of AMA's decision is proving to be a boon to his company - Peridot. Pickerell is president of that firm based in Pleasanton, California.

My company (Peridot) is a supplier of precision metal and plastic components to the minimally invasive device companies. As such we have at least half a dozen clients in the stomach reduction space that have placed their bets on just such a ruling. Insurance reimbursement codes mean the difference between a viable exit/sale of these startups so from a business standpoint (somewhat selfishly I admit) I am glad for the ruling.

From an economic point of view it seems better to treat obesity now than pay for the long term effects of diabetes and heart disease.

 [Photo Credit: iStockPhoto.com user jangeltun]

-- By Arundhati Parmar, Senior Editor, MD+DI

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