The World Health Organization has called obesity one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century. In 2007, 24% of adults in the UK were classed as obese, with a body mass index of 30 or more, and with men and women equally likely to be overweight. Levels of obesity have tripled in many European countries since the 1980s, and the number of those affected continues to rise at an alarming rate. Recent reports suggest that the rate of new diagnoses for obesity and diabetes in the UK is rising faster than in the USA, where the costs of care for these diseases is expected to rise to more than 15% of the total healthcare budget by 2030. Surprisingly, this trend is also beginning to be seen in the developing world, making the treatment of obesity, diabetes and dyslipidemia, which is also sometimes referred to as ‘metabolic syndrome’, a global health challenge.
Despite some progress towards treating these disorders over recent years, including statins, PPAR agonists and DPP-IV antagonists, some high profile approaches have failed. Two key areas, previously predicted to be blockbuster targets, have ground to a halt in recent months. Trials of Cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonists, like rimonabant and taranabant, for treating obesity were terminated at the end of 2008. Second, Vytorin – a combination of simvastatin and ezetimibe – marketed as a dual treatment for high levels of LDL, regarded as ‘bad’ cholesterol, was observed to have little effect on the build up of arterial plaques.
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Nat Monck, SCI’s Fine Chemicals Technical Group