Medical Devices in Works That Would Tackle Obesity in New Ways

State-of-the-art technologies go beyond the pain and risk of bariatric surgery to address America’s growing obesity problem.

Like methods and medications already on the market in the United States, they won’t work unless the patient does his or her part through lifestyle management. Also, as with other medications and treatments considered lifestyle changing products, there’s the question of whether they’d be covered by health insurance. That said, there are some truly amazing developments on the horizon that would help people with a body mass index of 30 or above; people who are considered obese.

For instance, there’s the Elipse Balloon, created by Allurion Technologies. As Stat reports, it’s a pill that theoretically can be taken at lunch hour. It’s actually a deflated pill attached to a catheter. The balloon is filled with two and a half cups of water when it’s in the stomach and there it stays for about four months, staving off feelings of hunger and helping patients lose weight. It eventually collapses and is excreted.

The Elipse Balloon was approved in Europe and the Middle East in 2016 and it currently is being tested on about 400 patients in a clinical trial in the U.S.

These sorts of devices come at an opportune time for their inventors. A recent report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds that 39.6% of adults and 18.5% of children are obese, the highest rates ever seen.

Another product in the works is the Gelesis 100 capsule made by the biotech firm, also called Gelesis. The company hopes its product will soon gain FDA approval. The capsules contain cellulose-based gel particles and citric acid. The patient takes six a day.

Stat: “The particles rapidly absorb water and expand to 100 times their original size, producing a pudding-like blob similar to chewed vegetables that makes the patient feel full. The particles break down in the colon and leave the body the same way as digested food.”

A company called GI Dynamics is also working on a weight-loss product called the EndoBarrier. It is put in the first two fee of the small intestine, detouring food around it but allows nutrients to be absorbed.

There’s no indication about how much these devices would cost U.S. consumers (although the Elipse Balloon costs about $3,500 in Europe).

And, again, no indication about whether insurance companies would pick up the tab.