Obesity costs the United States government billions of dollars each year in healthcare costs and secondary issues. Now, a new weight-loss pill that was just approved by the Food and Drug Administration may help to change these statistics.
The pill, Qsymia, has been approved for overweight and obese patients who have at-least one weight-related condition. The drug’s maker, Vivus Inc. has said that it has plans to bring the drug to the market for the public later this year.
In two studies, patients taking Qsymia were found to have significant weight loss. One study found that patients lost 6.7% of their body weight in a year while taking the pills and they lost 8.9% in another study. The drug combines to drugs that have been known to aid in weight loss for quite a long time – phentermine and topirimate.
As Tim Garvey of the University of Alabama at Birmingham explained,
“We now know there are multiple pathways that determine how much energy we take in every day. If you intervene on one pathway it’s hard to make much of a difference, you really need to attack multiple mechanisms to get a pronounced effect.”
New drugs haven’t been approved by the FDA since 1999; now the pill Belviq by Arena Pharmaceutical and Qsymia were approved in the same month. Many doctors have been putting pressure on the FDA to add more drugs to the basic of approved weight-loss aids. However, the FDA has been skeptical about doing so, when so many prescription diet pills have been associated with dangerous side effects and issues.
The FDA actually rejected Vivus’ approval in 2010 because they were worried about the potential for birth defects if it is taken by pregnant women. They have since created a risk-management plan that requires women of childbearing age to test negative for pregnancy before starting the drug and then to take a monthly pregnancy test while using the drug.
The Mountain View, California based Vivus plans to roll out the drug slowly, but estimates have been as high as $1 billion for the pill’s sales by 2016.