Are weight loss drugs being assessed unfairly?
Evan Haning wtop.com
WASHINGTON – Obesity may be a major health threat with few effective treatments, but new weight loss drugs failed to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration this month.
In December, Orexigen Therapeutics announced that in the first round of clinical trials, their new weight loss medication Contrave exceeded FDA requirements An FDA advisory panel also recommended approval (pdf). But as the Wall Street Journal notes, the FDA has been reluctant to approve any weight loss drugs, in recent months.
“I think the main concern was a potential increase for cardiac risk,” says Dr. Domenica Rubino, director of the Washington Center for Weight Management and Research.
Among patients whose blood pressure was monitored for 24 hours, there was no difference between those taking the drug and those given the placebo, says Rubino, who participated in clinical trials.
“We must also take into account the cardiac risk and blood pressure risk – and risk of diabetes and wear and tear on joints – that overweight people have.”
“Fifteen years of research has proved that weight loss is not a matter of will power,” Rubino says.
Our bodies are wired to hold on to the weight they have, even when it’s unhealthy.
“The body doesn’t say, ‘Oh, I’ve got diabetes now and I’ve got high blood pressure so I’d better let a little weight off.’ At each new weight gain, it hunkers down and tries to keep that weight gain.”
Popular culture keeps unhealthy myths about weight alive, Rubino says, taking a swipe at TV reality shows.
“I actually know a colleague who works for [one] show as an advisor, and I saw him at a meeting and I said, ‘What are you talking about? Nobody loses 16 pounds in one week, that’s crazy!’ And he smiled and said, ‘Well, that’s a TV week.’”
Rubino does expect eventual approval of safe weight loss medications, especially as more Americans become obese.
But until then, many people will continue to rely on dangerous mail order drugs and quackery, “some arbitrary clinic out there that just passes out buckets of pills, stuff that’s completely unregulated, hormone shots that don’t do anything. We’re in 2011. Why do we have to accept charlatan-based medicine?”
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