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VIVUS, Inc. (VVUS), Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ARNA): The US’s Hidden Obesity Epidemic

Ignore this trend at your own risk
If you choose to do nothing, then you’re playing right into the hands of pharmaceutical giants like Zoetis Inc (NYSE:ZTS), Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK), and IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. (NASDAQ:IDXX), which are counting on your indifference to drive their profits.

If you don’t believe that pet obesity is an epidemic, all you need to do is look toward Zoetis Inc (NYSE:ZTS)’s Slentrol, which is an anti-obesity pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration in early 2007 to treat dogs. That’s right; a chronic weight management pill to treat our pets came more than five years before big pharma introduced a new anti-obesity pill for humans — and yet, our pet obesity rate continues climb. In trials, Slentrol produced a mean weight loss of 11.8% in the 141 dogs tested, but it still requires the owner to stick to a dietary and exercise game plan to ensure the best chance of success.

If your faithful feline or pup should ever develop diabetes from being overweight, chances are they could be prescribed Vetsulin, an FDA-approved insulin injection to treat diabetes mellitus made by Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) Animal Health and targeted at hyperglycemia. Two injections a day and close monitoring of your pet are required to provide successful glycemic balance using this drug.

IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. (NASDAQ:IDXX) is also counting on your overweight or obese pet to drive its small animal health products that range from in-home and veterinary office diagnostic and imaging tests, to software designed to optimize veterinarians’ bottom lines. IDEXX’s I-Vision Direct Capture system, for instance, could be called upon for its quick and crisp imaging capabilities to help diagnose osteoarthritis and other bone-related diseases in pets caused by being overweight. As obesity trends have risen so have IDEXX’s sales, which are up by an average of 10.5% each year over the past decade.

How can we fix this?
The point here is simple — we can choose to kill two birds with one stone by simply choosing to exercise with our pets. Instead of watching TV in the house, take your dog for a walk. Instead of playing video games, grab a toy for your feline friend and entertain them. The thing about health-consciousness is that it’s incredibly contagious. Having your pet eating better and exercising more is likely to, in turn, get you eating better and exercising more as well. It’s a vicious (but fantastic) cycle that will have you and your pet feeling better and living happier, healthier lives.

Another key takeaway is that, when push comes to shove, we will do just about anything to ensure the health of our pets, as they’ve crossed that barrier — at least in America — from being just a pet to becoming part of the family. This means that animal-focused pharmaceuticals like Zoetis, Merck, and IDEXX stand to benefit whether obesity trends continue to rise, and they could make for some of the smartest and safest investment on Wall Street.

The article America’s Hidden Obesity Epidemic originally appeared on

Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

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