Prescription Diet Pill Market Set to Expand
The new crop of prescription diet pills Belviq and Qsymia that received FDA approval last year initially excited overweight consumers, given that the previous crop of prescription diet pills were pulled from pharmacy shelves.
In 1998, one-half of the Wyeth fen-phen combination was withdrawn from market, along with its chemical cousin Redux.
Sanofi-Aventis’ Acomplia was rejected in 2007 by the U.S. FDA. The diet pill was linked to five deaths by the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
By 2010, the Meridia diet pill then sold by Abbott Laboratories was yanked.
And the Xenical diet pill sold by Roche stalled over gastrointestinal side effects.
New Prescription Diet Pills
Earlier this month, Arena Pharmaceuticals disclosed that the US Drug Enforcement Administration has listed its Belviq drug for chronic weight management on as a Schedule IV controlled substance, which means the medication has a low potential for abuse. As a result, Belviq should start appearing in pharmacies sometime in June.
Qsymia, the first prescription weight loss drug to reach the marker in thirteen years, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in July of 2012 as a supplement to a reduced-calorie diet and program of exercise for chronic weight problems. It, too, is a schedule IV controlled substance.
A third pill - Contrave from Orexigen Therapeutics - is delayed while a cardiovascular study is conducted. The drug maker anticipates FDA approval in 2014.
Weight Loss with Prescription Diet Pills
Belviq has been approved for use by obese adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more or overweight adults with a BMI of 27 or more if they have a co-morbidity of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. The drug was tested in placebo-controlled clinical trials including subjects with and without type 2 diabetes. The treatment extended from 52 to 104 weeks. Patients treated with Belviq lost an average of 3 to 3.7 percent of their body weight in a period of up to one-year. Those patients with diabetes lost at least five percent of their body weight.
Similarly, Qsymia has been approved for obese adults with a body mass index of 30 or more, and overweight adults with a body mass of 27 or more who also have a weight-related health condition such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. Trial patients had an average weight loss of 6.7 percent of body weight at the lower dosage of the drug and 8.9 percent at a higher dosage over treatment with a placebo.
Translated, this means a woman who is 5' 6" tall and weighs 190 with a BMI of 30 can expect to lose six pounds on therapy with Belviq and about 12 to 16 lbs with Qsymia.
Problems with Prescription Diet Pills
While the weight loss experienced in clinical trials was positive, concerns about prescription diet pill side effects have been raised owing to cardiovascular events and tumors found in animal studies. The gravity of the side effects of are worth noting. Furthermore, health insurers may be skittish to offer reimbursement for the drugs owing to the well-documented history of serious side effects linked to previous diet pills.
The Bottom Line
While a 6 to 16 lb weight loss may be beneficial to women looking to shed a few pounds before bikini season, it delivers minimal health benefit to women looking to overcome obesity. Let’s hope the new crops of obesity drugs will spur more research into treatments that yield better weight loss and a lower risk of side effects.
Living life well-fed,
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Published On: May 27, 2013