With all the attention this week being given to the FDA’s review concerning heart problems connected with Avandia, one of the major diabetes drugs, you may have missed the bad news for what could have been the first new prescription drug for obesity in more than a decade. Another FDA advisory panel voted against Qnexa, which Vivus Inc. developed.
In year-long clinical trials people who took the highest dose of Qnexa averaged a 10.6 percent weight loss. Those taking a placebo lost 1.7 percent of their body weight.
Unfortunately for Vivus and for people who want to lose weight, the side effects of Qnexa outweighed its benefits in the minds of most of the FDA’s panel members. These weren’t niggling concerns. They include the possibility that people taking Qnexa would be depressed and think suicidal thoughts, have their memory and concentration impaired, be at greater risk of kidneys stones, and could suffer from heart problems.
If the FDA still approves Qnexa in spite of the panel’s recommendation against it, this could be the easy way for the great majority of people with diabetes to lose the 10 percent of our weight that our doctors have told us that we need to do. Almost everyone who has type 2 diabetes is overweight. Our government's statistics show that 85 percent of all American adults with diabetes are overweight.
If an effective weight loss drug is no longer an option for us, we could be left with our own resources. Still, I know that drugs we already have to control our blood glucose can also help some of us with type 2 diabetes to lose weight. I lost a lot of weight by taking Byetta, and friends of mine are achieving weight loss success with Victoza.
But since all drugs carry with them the risk of side effects, which is the FDA’s biggest concern, many of us would like to be taking as few drugs as possible. We can’t do it with with willpower alone, as Gina Kolata emphasizes in her book Rethinking Thin.
In 2007 I decided to do without drugs entirely and yet I lost even more weight. The strategy that I adopted was the only proven way, a very low-carb diet, very much like the one that Dr. Richard K. Bernstein has himself followed for years and has taught successfully to thousands of his patients with diabetes. By following the recommendations in his book, Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, I was able to bring my weight down from 170, when I started low-carbing in December 2007 to 151 last October.
But this year has been murder for my weight. In all my traveling since February I lost control. While I had no problem staying on a very low-carb diet, I ate too much fat and protein when eating out and wasn’t able to reliably check my weight on a daily basis so that I could immediate take corrective action. Consequently, my weight crept up as high as 169 a few months ago.
Only by carefully watching what I eat and weighing myself every morning have I been able to start bringing it back down to where I am more healthy, feel better, and my clothes fit. Today my weight is down to 162, but I still have a way to go to reach my ultimate weight goal of 155.
I know that I’ll do it. I also know that we still don’t have any easy way to lose weight and to keep it off.