Carlos López Patán
Director General
Medix
/
View from the Top

Holistic Approach to Overweight, Obesity

By Jan Hogewoning | Wed, 02/10/2021 - 10:09

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted obesity risks?

A: The public is aware of the extra risk. It is clear that the adverse effects of a COVID-19 infection are much more serious when already dealing with obesity or overweight. Obesity is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the organs. COVID-19 also causes inflammation of the organs by affecting cellular tissue. This is like adding gas to a fire.  

Q: Why is Mexico failing to prevent obesity?

A: Obesity is a very complex disease that appears simple. People say, “do not eat; go and exercise.” However, there are genetic, psychological, social, cultural and environmental factors in play that make it a much bigger challenge. We think that awareness campaigns have not sufficiently touched these factors, whether from the government or from the private sector. We also have a long way to go to providing adequate treatment. Effective treatment requires time and knowledge of the patient, which means it will not work if it is not personalized. You need to take an integral approach that changes the patient’s lifestyle in an attainable way and through incentives. I think there is a lack of specialization in the area, especially within the public health system. It is estimated that 70 percent of Mexico’s population is suffering from obesity. It is clear that it is a major health crisis that merits attention.

Q: What role do socioeconomics play in the development and treatment of this disease?

A: Obesity and overweight are present at all socioeconomic levels. However, it is true that the lower levels present the worst problems. There is a wide availability of low-price products with high levels of sugars and calories. People are choosing to buy unhealthy food items over healthier meals, such as salads. For this reason, it is so important to understand someone’s socio-economic profile and their location when creating a plan to fight overweight.  

Q: How are you bringing this holistic approach to your work?

A: We are a pharmaceutical company that produces medications and supplements. However, these tools are not a solution in themselves. It all starts with knowing the person. To spread this holistic approach, we contact doctors and provide training. We have worked closely with the National Crusade Against Overweight and Obesity program. We try to get to where the people are. The place where people spent the most time is the workplace. We have visited 3,300 companies, made over 1.5 million consults and treated over 600,000 patients. Treatments include a package of supplements, medication, exercise routines and adequate food plans.

Q: What institutions do you work with?

A: We cannot do this alone. It requires specialists from different organizations. We have worked with doctors from UNAM and recently signed an agreement with the Spanish Charitable Society to exchange expertise on the topic. We collaborate with the Latin American Institute for Overweight, as well. Furthermore, we approach many companies and together with their HR departments or company doctors, we create plans to treat obesity and generate benefits for employees. We have created plans for a wide range of automotive companies. We have also done this with state government bodies, such as the government of Mexico City. Furthermore, we work with large pharmacy chains that have a doctor’s office. Right now, we are working closely with the latter, training doctors who are working at their pharmacy locations. Medix also created a platform that connects other organizations focused on conditions that are closely related to obesity, such as diabetes. We are associated with different pharmaceutical manufacturers in this way.

Q: What is your product offering for overweight and obesity?

A: Our portfolio has more than 15 products to treat overweight and obesity. It is a complete portfolio compared to other companies nationally and internationally. The type of product someone will receive really depends on the person and the diagnosis. Some products generate a sensation of fullness, through a mechanism that interacts with the nervous center. Others have a physical mechanism. We have a fiber-type product that absorbs water in the stomach and expands. This gives a signal to the brain of fullness.

Apart from these products, our packages include personalized eating plans. These take into account the person’s profile, where they live and what types of foods are common in the area. These are complemented with supplements that boost the immunological system, such as Vitamin D. We are also working to include more devices. With the lockdown, we adapted our services to include digital doctor consultations, electronic prescriptions and home delivery of products. Medix also has other verticals apart from overweight and obesity. These include a line for gastroenterological issues, cardiovascular issues and one for women’s health. The latter is moving into wellness.

Q: What is your view on the new labeling standards for food products?

A: It is a complementary measure that helps to inform the population. What I appreciate about it is its simplicity. People can be warned of high sugar content, without being presented with a complex scientific explanation. That being said, it is important that healthier products also have attractive flavors.  

Q: Have levels of exercise risen in Mexican society?

A: Unfortunately, this has been very limited. There is a segment of the population that likes to exercise and participate in competitions. But overall, we are a very sedentary society. Exercise is not part of our culture. The culture of daily exercise is not part of our education system. Many schools also do not have enough space for this. The simplest exercise Mexicans can engage in is to achieve a certain number of steps per day.  

Q: What are your objectives for 2021?

A: It is important to complete our transition to a treatment model that is adapted to the pandemic circumstances. This requires facilitating the best digital channel between patient and doctor. People should not stop paying attention to their health just because they are stuck at home. To create a better profile of patients, we have been integrating artificial intelligence into analyses. We hope to continue improving patient profiling. This includes looking more deeply at psychological issues. We are working with some tech companies to continue building this area.

Medix is working on launching more products in the OTC area that are supported by scientific studies. We also want to add more supplements. Some of these products will be focused on treating conditions that are related to obesity, such as insomnia. In the gastroenterological and the cardiovascular areas, we are also seeing important tech innovations in our own research department.

 

Medix is a 100 percent Mexican company focused on R&D, production and commercialization of pharmaceutical chemical products. It is the leading company in Mexico in the treatment of overweight and obesity.

Jan Hogewoning Jan Hogewoning Journalist and Industry Analyst