Healthcare Technology Featured Article

January 23, 2013

Successful Obesity Surgery Prompts Newfound Interest in the United States

The healthcare landscape can be a strange thing. With different regulatory bodies taking different looks at the same products and thus often getting different results, products that find great success throughout the world might be stopped dead at the door in the United States. A new obesity surgery is one of these products, and after significant success throughout Europe and the rest of the world, there is hope that this new procedure will be offered in American hospitals. A recent study from Frost & Sullivan, meanwhile, shows just what's at stake for American hospitals and American patients alike.

The surgery in question has quite a bit of consumer demand, and why not? The obesity rates in the United States continue to climb, though just what's behind that has plenty of debate tied to it. With the reports of successful obesity surgeries performed throughout the planet, it's left a lot of people who find themselves on the high side of the government's obesity figures looking at this procedure and asking why this isn't available here. With the new report out from Frost & Sullivan, a lot of hospitals and doctors are likely also asking this particular question, especially when they see that the obesity surgery devices market in 2012 earned $156.2 million in revenues, with an expected climb to $301.7 million by 2016.

But despite the tales of success coming in from around the world, the Food and Drug Administration--the central regulatory body for such systems in the United States--is balking at the idea of bringing such a system into play. Their rules are much more stringent than the rest of the world's rules, and this often causes bottlenecks at approval. While this has the positive effect of helping to protect from potentially dangerous healthcare systems, it also has the negative effect of slowing positive gains as well. What's more, there are some stories about post-surgical complications with the obesity surgery in question, and that move has insurance companies--already under the gun with recent changes--balking at paying for the surgeries. The fact that they have no long-term data also leaves insurers gun-shy.

However, there's a surprising amount of room for non-invasive devices, and this is likely to light a fire under the market. It's also being suggested that device makers should go farther in working with surgeons and the like to get the patient pool more educated and potentially help improve the speed at which such devices can get to market.

The idea of obesity as an epidemic in the United States is one that's received plenty of press, and plenty of controversy, since its inception. With proponents pointing to stacks of data, and opponents questioning the value of the data in the first place, it's clear there's a lot of room for controversy. One of the primary measures of obesity, the Body Mass Index, doesn't take into account things like age or body composition, which allows for patently bizarre conclusions like the discovery that, somehow, action movie legend and former bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger was obese under the BMI's measuring standards.

Still, the health risks associated with obesity--actual obesity--are quite well-documented. Surgeries may be able to help in some matters, and with successful surgeries making their way into the fore, hopefully, this is one health problem we'll be more readily able to fix.

Edited by Carlos Olivera

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