The World Health Organization (WHO) recognised obesity as a chronic disease as early as 1997, but despite that, it is only in recent years that it is being treated as such. The cause of the disease is a hormonal imbalance which in turn impedes the ability to feel full and content after food intake. This leads to over-eating, and the development of unhealthy eating patterns consisting of eating too much, and too often, usually with a lot of snacking between meals.
As with all diseases, it is always better to prevent than to treat. If the hormonal imbalance can be treated, the obesity is prevented. The new medical drugs for obesity have this approach, and are designed to regulate the hormonal imbalance through the central nervous system. Some of these drugs are so effective, that a loss of up to 30 – 35 per cent of the total body weight is possible.
Better treatments to more people
More than half of Sweden’s entire population is overweight, and 16 per cent are obese, according to statistics from the Swedish health care authority (Folkhälsomyndighet). A similar pattern is true for the rest of Europe. The European Commission recognised obesity as a disease in 2021, and in some European countries the pharmaceutical treatment is state-funded to some extent, most commonly when obesity has led to diabetes.
If obesity is widely recognised as a disease with well-known complications such as cardiovascular diseases, stroke and diabetes, why are there still so few patients treated at an early stage to prevent these complications?
“The traditional approach has been to offer surgery, the gastric bypass surgery being the most common, in order to treat obesity. The surgery is, however, not free of complications and nor is it available to all. In fact, only a very small number of patients are offered surgery, and it is a very costly treatment as well. The pharmaceutical treatments are relatively new, and the decision makers in the public healthcare sector need time to evaluate and see proof of concept over time”, says endocrinologist Martin Carlsson, Chief Medical Officer at Yazen.
“Health care providers, as well as patients, can benefit a lot more from pharmaceutical treatments of obesity, than they can from surgery. This is why we aim to make these treatments more available and accessible to people suffering from obesity and with a risk of developing other conditions as a result of that”.
The most accessible medical service
Martin Carlsson founded Yazen with three other experts; physician Magnus Nyhlén, CPO, entrepreneur Fredrik Meurling, CEO, and systems developer Otto Bretz, CTO. Together they have created a holistic medical service, easily accessible through a smart digital platform where patients can connect with doctors, personal trainers, dieticians and psychologists for example. They receive medical treatment in combination with methods of how to make lifestyle changes.
“We provide a comprehensive service to our patients, with everything they need to make the treatment as effective as possible. Many patients experience a big change in the first couple of weeks, a sense of calm when it comes to eating habits and making more healthy choices in life. Most patients experience life transforming changes after the first month. This is one of the main reasons why I am motivated to work with this group, the positive changes are so visible and it is so rewarding not just for me as a doctor, but for all my patients as well”, says Martin Carlsson.
New patients start by signing up to the digital platform, providing answers to a set of health-related questions intended to map out their needs. A nurse welcomes the patient and a slot is booked for blood tests. If the patient falls within the criteria, which is having a BMI over 30 (or BMI over 27 with additional health complications) a doctor evaluates which treatment should be provided.
It is probably the most accessible medical service provided when it comes to obesity in Sweden, and for Yazen the goal is to expand the service to more countries to benefit more patients in the near future.