Real (and very good) health benefits from new diet drug

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Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 1.11.44 PMIf ever there was a need for an effective new drug, it would be something to treat obesity. Yet, following the Fen-Phen debacle in 1997, when Wyeth was forced to withdraw their highly effective appetite suppressant (also called Redux) due to heart valve toxicity and rare cases of often fatal primary pulmonary hypertension, drug companies and the FDA were scared off to the point that 13 years would pass before another appetite suppressant would be approved.

Two were finally approved in 2012 Qsymia from Vivus and Belviq from Arena Pharmaceuticals. Both have been shown to be effective in helping people lose weight when coupled with changes in dietary habits.

But the first evidence of an actual health benefit from one of these drugs (Qsymia) was just reported by W. Timothy Garvey, MD, and colleagues at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

Patients who took the drug and modified their lifestyle lost weight, as expected. But marked improvements in their health were also seen, notably a decrease in metabolic syndrome and progression of prediabetes to type 2 diabetes.

After 108 weeks of treatment, the average weight loss in the placebo arm was 2.5 percent of patients receiving placebo compared with approximately 11 percent in patients taking the drug.

Perhaps, more importantly, the progression to diabetes tracked very well with weight loss 6.1 percent in the placebo group vs. 1.3 to 1.8 percent for the drug-treated group (the range reflects the dose of drug used).

This translates into a reduction in the risk of developing diabetes of 70.5% (low dose) and 78.7% (high dose).

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom is very impressed. He says. It was clear from earlier trials that both Qsymia and Belviq were effective in helping people lose weight, but I doubt many people would have predicted this rapid and substantial drop in the incidence of type 2 diabetes the most important health consequence of obesity. I m really impressed.

Dr. Bloom s 2012 op-ed in Medical Progress Today, where he discusses why Qsymia is quite different from Fen-Phen, can be found here.