The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the diet drug Qsymia to help give doctors and their patients more tools to fight excessive weight gain as obesity rates continue to rise in the U.S. and around the world.
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An advisory panel voted 20 to two to approve the drug in February, the first time the FDA voted to approve a weight-loss drug in more than a decade. Originally known as Qnexa, the FDA required Vivus, the manufacturer of the drug, to change its name in order to prevent its confusion with other drugs with similar-sounding names. Data presented by the company showed that it helped patients lose about 10 percent of their body weight.
The committee’s recommendation and Tuesday’s approval by the FDA drew both praise and criticism, reflecting concern over the drug’s side effects as well as the need to give patients more choices beyond diet, exercise and bariatric surgery.
“Considering the heavy toll of obesity in our society, this agent has tremendous potential,” said Dr. Chip Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehab and prevention at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.
“I do think it will help a subpopulation lose weight. However, I am concerned that mass marketing of this drug will perpetuate the magic bullet approach to weight loss, which is limiting and does not address the root problem,” said Dr. Gerard Mullin, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
About one-third of Americans are obese, and many have chronic, expensive medical conditions as a result, such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Until recently, the array of available options has been frustratingly sparse for many doctors and their patients: diet, exercise and, for those overweight enough to qualify, bariatric surgery.