Weight Loss Drugs

Can a weight loss capsule take off 20, 30, 40 pounds?

By Colleen Moriarty

Americans are learning to downsize everything — except for food portions. Despite efforts by the medical community and government and private organizations, the obesity epidemic seems to be a runaway train. And, just as there's no magic bullet for any big health problem, there's no magic weight loss capsule.

A few years back, promising new weight-loss research had many in the diabetes and scientific communities optimistic about pharmaceutical treatments for obesity. The weight-loss drugs in the WeightLossDrugspharmaceutical manufacturers' pipelines seemed to offer the elusive weight-loss panacea. Some of these new drugs promised losses of five to 10 percent of body weight. One drug, Qsymia by Vivus, projected weight loss of up to 14.7 percent of body weight—but once approved, the actual results were still exciting, although significantly lower than projected: an 8.9 percent weight loss in one year for patients taking the highest dose and 6.7 percent for those taking the recommended dose. Yet, these results are nothing to sneeze at for those in need of a solution to supplement healthy eating and exercise programs.

When new medications that are safe and effective are released, they are "a welcome addition to the treatment of any overweight patient but especially diabetes patients," said R. Keith Campbell, RPH, FASHP, FAPHA, a professor of diabetes and pharmacotherapy at Washington State University College of Pharmacy in Pullman, WA. More than 80 percent of type 2 diabetes is related to or exacerbated by weight.

The combo affect
Many new drugs—both approved and proposed— are based on formulas that combine two or more drugs."We realize that there are many pathways that affect overeating," says Caroline Apovian, M.D. director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center in Boston, MA, and a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association. "The research is indicating that we need to use combinations in order to get the weight off and keep it off," Apovian says.

While the new combination drugs look good in the lab, in the real world, many were unable to gain the FDA's rigorous stamp of approval. There's still no miracle weight loss capsule. Even if there were,  "It is more than just giving a patient a drug, and magically weight melts away," says Campbell. "It takes an empowered patient who also learns to eat in a healthy manner and exercise to lose weight and keep it off."

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Last Modified Date: July 23, 2013

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