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FDA Approves Two New Obesity Drugs After 13-Year Pause

Emma Gonzalez | October 3rd, 2012

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In 2012, the FDA approved two new obesity drugs – 13 years after the last approval. The medications, Belviq and Qsymia, help dieters reduce cravings and suppress their appetites. However, while these new drugs help answer the question of how to lose weight quickly, they are not the answer itself: the easiest ways to lose weight remain the ones that take your lifestyle and medical history into account.

Physician-assisted diets, which are designed by medical professionals and customized for each individual, often prove to be the best weight loss program because of sustainability over the long term. These programs, at least for some patients, will also incorporate obesity drugs.

Dr. Michael Kaplan, the founder of The Center for Medical Weight Loss, the largest group of weight loss doctors in the country, says, “I’m very happy that the FDA has approved this medication and that we have yet another tool in our weight loss tool box because of it.”

FDA approves first obesity drugs in 13 years

For years, due to side effects and other failures, obesity drugs took a backseat to other therapies. However, 13 years after no new obesity drug approvals, in 2012 the FDA approved two new medications. At the time, the federal agency called obesity a “major public health concern” and as such indicated that it would seriously consider new weight-loss drugs.

Currently, an estimated 36% of adults in the United States are obese, not just overweight; in addition to the obvious concerns, obesity also increases a person’s risk for stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other serious health problems. In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity topped $147 billion.

Clearly, the question to America is how to lose weight quickly and keep it off.

Best weight loss program may be supplemented by obesity drugs

2012 has been a good year for the new wave of obesity drugs. In June, the FDA first approved Belviq, which is manufactured by Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc. (ARNA) and Eisai Co. (4523), and then in July approved Qsymia, a drug from Vivus Inc. (VVUS) – the first approvals since 1999. In clinical trials, these drugs proved to helped obese patients lose 5-10 of their body weight.

However, experts note that obesity drugs alone are not a complete solution. According to Dr. Kaplan, “We often prescribe phentermine to help control appetite as part of an overall program. For some people, it really helps. Topiramate slows brain activity and theoretically should help with food cravings. In combination with phentermine it should lead to an increase in energy, which is exactly what you want while losing weight.”

Echoed Simos Simeonidis, an analyst with Cowen & Co., “Those things don’t work on their own,” and drugs should be combined with exercise, diet and behavior modification to achieve optimal results with the best weight loss program possible.

New drugs help suppress appetite and eliminate cravings

Obesity drugs like Belviq and Qsymia can be an excellent supplement to a healthy, fast weight loss program. Qsymia, for example, is a combination of phentermine and topamax, two drugs that were already approved for other uses separately. Together, they form a drug that helps suppress appetite and reduce cravings, giving dieters a bit of extra help on their path to healthy living. Clearly, one of the easiest ways to lose weight is by simply not eating as much and not craving unhealthy foods.

According to Dr. Kaplan, “I’m not convinced that Qsymia (Qnexa) alone without physician counseling will be a good solution to weight problems. However, Qsymia combined with professional physician counseling could be a great option for doctors to have at their disposal to help their obese patients.”

If you want to learn about successful weight loss stories, or want to know more about these newest obesity drugs, simply enter your information into the box at top right and see if there is a Center near you. Special offers are available for first-time visitors at select locations.