With the release of ‘Alli’ (first FDA Approved over-the-counter weight loss pill in US), what will be the future of obesity? Will a drug be the answer? The day will probably come when obesity is classified as a disease. What does it mean if this really happens? If it does happen, all the big pharmaceutical companies will create even larger fortune with prescription of drug cure. I read the Wired magazine with great interest which it delves into the insidious promotion of obesity as a disease and how these pharmaceutical companies are involved in the lobbying. The term of “metabolic syndrome” is used for this so called “disease”. Interesting discussion points mentioned in the article – If obesity is a disease, can we see it through a microscope? How about doing blood test? In the drug industry, finding health issue like metabolic syndrome is known as “developing new disease markets” or “branding a condition.”
Drug firms do well, not purely because of their excellent Research and Development (R&D), but also because of their marketing engine. They are not letting go the opportunity this time knowing obesity is a legitimate health crisis happening in developed countries. Obesity is not the first case which a daily life issue has being recognised as a disease. Alcoholism and clinical depression were all once considered personal problems that are now recognised as legitimate medical disorders. If these companies are really successful in convincing the authority that obesity is a disease, it is still up to the obese people to decide whether they want to consume those drugs. However, I bet that most will take the easy way out to buy the drugs. Many people are getting used to solving health issue with pills. Just look at their lifestyle – instead of eating fruits and veggies, they take supplements; instead of playing games outdoor, they go for Wii. So, I won’t be surprised that instead of eating right and exercising regularly, people will drive to a pharmacy and buy weight loss drugs. The mindset of “I am ill and I need to eat pills” is hard to be changed. Though I do not deny that obesity is a health issue, this “metabolic syndrome” is a marketing term. We will not die because of metabolic syndrome, but we may die of what it leads to – diabetes and heart disease. Obesity is a lifestyle problem and it is personal responsibility to eat well and exercise regularly. Drug should never be the permanent and the only solution.
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