September 16, 2012

Is the Country Ready for Two New Diet Drugs?

Obesity is now considered an epidemic in America.

Is the Country Ready for Two New Diet Drugs

There is no denying the fact that obesity is a growing problem in the United States of America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 36 percent of American adults and 17 percent of children were classified as obese in the 2009-2010 calendar year.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved a diet drug for public use since Xenical in 1999 and its over-the-counter form, Alli, in 2007. It seems that the organization has been hesitant to sanction weight loss aides due to the negative side effects associated with earlier pills. While Xenical and Alli are effective, the drug (orlistat) works by stopping fat absorption and has the socially undesirable side effect of “oily, loose stools” and can cause liver damage. More significantly, the popular diet medications Fen-Phen and Meridia had to be pulled from shelves after both were shown to have serious cardiovascular side effects.

Consequently, when it came to the new diet drugs, Belviq and Qysmia, the FDA initially rejected both submissions in 2010 and only approved them this summer after they had undergone additional clinical and safety trials.

Belviq (lorcaserin hydrochloride)

What is it?
Produced by Arena Pharmaceuticals and Eisai, Incorporated and approved by the FDA in June, this oral tablet works to control the user’s appetite. The drug affects the serotonin receptors in the patient’s brain in order to help him feel full and satisfied while eating less food. 
What are the risks?
Since many antidepressant drugs also affect serotonin levels, it is not recommended that patients use these types of medication in combination with Belviq. The drug label also warns that it could affect heart valves, cognitive function, and cause feelings of depression. Some of the listed side effects include constipation, dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue, headache, and nausea. 
What are the benefits?
Belviq’s label recommends that patients stop taking the drug if they do not lose 5 percent of their body weight after 12 weeks because it is unlikely that the drug will be effective after this point. However, patients involved in Belviq clinical trials typically only lost 5 percent of their starting weight.  

Qsymia (phentermine and topiramate extended-release)

What is it?
Approved in July, this time-release capsule by Vivus is a combination of two previously approved drugs. Phentermine, a main ingredient in discontinued Fen-Phen, suppresses the user’s appetite by affecting the brain’s hypothalamus gland. Topiramate, traditionally used to help control epileptic seizures and prevent migraine headaches, affects neurotransmitters and slows the brain’s electrical signals. When combined, phentermine stops food cravings, and topiramate encourages weight loss.
What are the risks?
Topiramate has been known to lessen the effectiveness of birth control pills and cause birth defects, so women must make sure that they are not pregnant and will not get pregnant while taking Qysmia. The makers of this drug are currently studying its effect on users’ heart rates and cardiovascular health, so they recommend regular check-ups while taking the medication. The side effects listed on the drug label include constipation, a distorted sense of taste, dizziness, dry mouth, insomnia, and skin numbness.
What are the benefits?
Like Belviq, Qysmia recommends that patients stop taking the drug if they do not lose 5 percent of their body weight after 12 weeks because it is unlikely that the drug will be effective after this point. In clinical trials, patients lost up to 10 percent of their starting body weight.

Are These Drugs for You?

Is the Country Ready for Two New Diet Drugs - Beauty and Personal Grooming Pic 2
Diet drugs are not a replacement for traditional weight loss methods.

It should be noted that both Belviq and Qysmia are only intended for use by adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 30 or a BMI of 27 with weight-related medical conditions, and neither one is a “magic pill.” In order to attain weight loss, patients must also change their diets and add exercise to their daily routines. Furthermore, they must continue these behaviors after they stop taking the medicine if they want to keep off the weight. As a result, these drugs are truly only effective for medically obese patients who are willing to commit to an overall lifestyle change. 

Stephanie Marbukh is a blogger who writes about a variety of topics including beauty news, car insurance, and house gutters.

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