There’s been a growing trend among pharmaceutical companies to develop services that can complement or amplify their drug development efforts. In a move that combines that trend with the battle against obesity, Merck (NYSE: MRK) is collaborating with a weight management company in a new division to help people lose weight, according to a company statement.
Nearly 36 percent of U.S. adults are considered obese. The healthcare costs associated with treating chronic conditions associated with obesity was $147 billion in 2008. The push by companies to develop solutions to successfully address that need is a significant trend in healthcare.
A description of the Boston-based company, called HMR Weight Management, said its weight management interventions “combine a structured diet, behavior coaching and monitoring, and physical activity to achieve clinically meaningful weight loss that can help reduce the risks of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.” It is a collaboration with Health Management Resources Corp., a 25-year-old company.
The program is generally offered through hospitals and employer plans but Merck is looking to expand the program with the resources of a big pharma company.
Merck and other pharmaceutical companies have been developing services to demonstrate there’s more to them than drug development. A few years ago Merck started Vree Health, a health IT company focused on smoothing the discharge process to reduce readmissions.
Janssen has been developing a health IT solution to support cardiac rehabilitation. Janssen and other pharmaceutical companies have also developed medication management apps.
It is also collaborating with other companies to develop tools to help change behavior. Its work with Canadian gaming developer Ayogo is one example of that. One of the games Ayogo has produced is Monster Makeover. The game for teens rewards activity with points towards building cooler monsters. It is also collaborating with Geisinger to develop better medication-adherence tools.