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Overweight? Diet drugs may not be the answer

By       Message Martha Rosenberg     Permalink
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"I have taken this drug off and on for the past 10 years for weight loss. It works, but the results NEVER last, it makes you feel great for about 6 months, you loose weight, (sic) you have awesome energy to work out and then it begins to not work anymore. Its like you build up an immunity to it or something."

The comment is about phentermine (Fastin, Adipex, Ionamin), half of a new drug under consideration by the FDA, but it could apply to all the diet drugs. Thanks to human's "thrifty gene," diet drugs work until they don't work, say scientists. When the body senses it's losing its adipose stores, it actually changes the metabolic rules to retain saddlebags and love handles. Thanks for that.

So, even though two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight and a third obese, few drugs have been able to make a dent in our gross national product; they've proved ineffective or dangerous or ineffective and dangerous.

Fen Phen was withdrawn thirteen years ago for killing at least 120 people...and didn't even work that well, people say.

Meridia, one of the few diet drugs currently on the market, got a heart attack and stroke warning from the FDA earlier this year...and only works with diet and exercise anyway, users say. Both sound like the joke about the restaurant that had such bad food...and such small portions.

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And let's not even talk about Alli and Xenical which, by blocking the body's absorption of fat, cause "oily bowels" and "anal leakage" -- "With Allies Like This, Who Needs Enemas?" and "Free coupon for Depends" say comics -- yet caused no more weight loss than placebo. (The FDA just added a "severe liver injury" warning, too.)

So when an FDA advisory committee considered a new diet superdrug this month, Qnexa, many put down their Pirate's Booty and listened. Especially when patient Erin Aycock testified she lost 50 pounds during trials and others were said to lose 10 percent of their body weight.

Qnexa, made by California biotech Vivus, combines Topamax, an anti-seizure drug also given for pain and bipolar disorder, with phentermine which was the phen in Fen Phen.

Topamax makes you lose weight alright say patients on the drug-rating site, along with your memory, word recall and hair! In fact Topamax brain zapping properties are so well known it is referred to as "Stupamax" in the military where it is in wide use, says Army Times.

Topamax's weight loss properties may come from the fact that it makes food and beverages tastes bad say 33 users. Last year it received an FDA suicide warning (along with other seizure drugs) and a few years ago, a warning for acute myopia associated a type of glaucoma.

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And the amphetamine-related phentermine, the other drug in Qnexa? Not considered the deadly part of Fen Phen so still on the market? "I honestly can't distinguish this drug from Adderall, or even cocaine. It might as well be called Prescription Coke," says one phentermine user. Users report losing 50 and 60 pounds (many gaining it back) while being unable to sleep and chewing gum -- and the insides of their cheeks -- constantly.

Will American soon get a chance to lose weight on Qnexa, albeit lying awake and biting their cheeks? Maybe. The FDA advisory committee voted ten to six against Qnexa because of concerns about depression, memory-loss, birth defects and lack of long term data. But the committee only makes recommendations and the final FDA decision comes in October.

Meanwhile two other diet drugs soon come before the FDA, also made by California biotechs instead of Big Pharma.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)

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