Thursday, January 10, 2008

Weight-Loss Drug in the News

Pretty pills.
Originally uploaded by nicasaurusrex
Sadly, it is inevitable. Drug companies will continue to search for the miracle prescription drug that they can peddle to overweight people with the promise of dropping the pounds. The diet industry is a billion dollar a year business and pharmaceutical companies want their piece of the pie. Like all medicine, there are always potential side effects.

One of the new experimental drugs, taranabant, is currently undergoing clinical trials. The results, funded by Merch Research Labratories (who also developed the drug), were published in the January issue of Cell Metabolism. This particular drug works by blocking the same pleasure centers in the brain that cause the munchies in marijuana users. This reduces hunger and supposedly helps people lose weight.

However, the results aren't anything to write home about. The test subjects who took the highest dose of the drug lost an average of 11 pounds in 12 weeks while following a reduced-calorie eating plan. In a seperate study, those who took the large dose reduced their daily calorie intake by 22%. In a diet of 2000 calories, 22% means the person was eating 440 calories less per day, which is a little less than needed to lose one pound per week.

Do we really need medicine to lose weight at one pound per week while eating a low-calorie eating plan? It is also worth noting that the group taking the largest dose of the drug also had the highest frequency of side effects. Over half of them reported gastrointestinal problems while a little less than a quarter reported psychiatric effects.

Dr. Steven R. Smith, a professor and employee at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, commented on this drug and the possibility of the FDA approving it for use.
I think this class of drugs, should it make it to market, is going to need to be reserved for people who have complications related to their obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or severe osteoarthritis.
While that sounds good, we won't know if Merck feels the same way until we see what advertising they do for this new drug.

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