Regeneron, AstraZeneca collaborate to venture into obesity drug market

WORLD – Regeneron and AstraZeneca enter into a partnership that will focus on researching, developing and commercializing small molecule medicines targeting GPR75 for the treatment of obesity.

GPR75 has emerged as a potential target for the treatment of obesity and its related co-morbidities, following findings published by Regeneron a few weeks ago in Science.

The new target was identified by sequencing almost 650,000 people and identifying individuals with rare protective mutations.

According to the analysis, individuals with at least one inactive copy of the GPR75 gene had lower body mass index (BMI) and tended to weigh about 12 pounds less and faced a 54% lower risk of obesity compared to those without the mutation, on average.

These individuals also had strong associations seen with improvements in diabetes parameters including glucose lowering.

Obesity has been a growing concern globally and in 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults (39 per cent of the global population) were overweight, of which over 650 million were obese. According to data from the World Health Organization, in the space of just 45 years, worldwide obesity has nearly tripled.

Out of all the countries of the world, Mexico ranks first in the world in childhood obesity and second in adult obesity.

According to the country’s 2018 National Health and Nutrition Survey, 75 per cent of Mexicans aged 20 and over are overweight or obese. Even more alarming, 35.6 per cent of the country’s children aged 5 to 11 are overweight or obese.

A parallel increase in chronic non-communicable diseases associated with obesity, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, has also been detected.

And with the coronavirus pandemic yet to be brought under control, both overweight and obesity pose greater risks for those who become infected with Covid-19.

According to Mexico’s Secretariat’s calculations, the total cost of obesity in 2017 alone amounted to 240 billion pesos (US$12 billion), an amount predicted to rise to 272 billion pesos (US$13.6 billion) by 2023.

Until recently, studies addressing the causes of obesity have focused on the poor choices made by individuals, but have rarely looked at the obesogenic environment.

Back in 2014, the Mexican government implemented a sugary drinks tax of one peso per litre (approximately 10 per cent).

By the end of that same year, the consumption of sugary drinks had dropped by 12 per cent, while the consumption of unsweetened beverages such as bottled water increased by 4 per cent.

According to the INSP, applying the tax over 10 years would result in savings of approximately US$91.6 million in health care spending and prevent almost 240,000 cases of obesity.

This was more than 61,000 cases of diabetes, almost 4,000 cerebral vascular events, more than 2,800 cases of hypertensive heart disease and more than 4,000 cases of ischaemic heart disease.

Another strategy for combatting the overweight epidemic is front-of-package labelling, recently adopted by Mexico.

Following a multi-year campaign spearheaded by the Alliance for Food Health, the Official Mexican Standard NOM-051 came into force on 1 October 2020.

It requires front-of-package labelling for food and non-alcoholic beverages that provides consumers with a truthful and concise warning of excess sugar, saturated fats, sodium and other critical nutrients and ingredients.

The previous system of labelling was not clear to consumers as it displayed the proportion of ingredients per portion as a percentage of the recommended daily allowance.

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