It was recently announced that the prescription weight loss medication Contrave, which had previously been denied approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, might complete enrollment for its cardiovascular risk assessment far earlier than expected. The treatment, which is manufactured by Orexigan Therapeutics Inc., had in 2011 not been considered ready for patient use following concerns over long-term impact on the risk of heart attack. But now it has been reported that the possibility of another new obesity treatment might only be two years away.
This makes it three potentially new weight loss treatments on the horizon, with Arena Pharmaceutical’s Belviq and Vivus’ Qnexa also finding success in their attempts to become the newest obesity medication. The former has stretched substantially into the lead following FDA approval earlier this year with availability in the UK expected in 2013. That would bring the number of prescription medications appoved for weight loss to two, including the currently only approved treatment,Xenical orlistat.
But what differentiates these new medications, and more importantly, why are they needed?
Contrave is made up of two approved drugs that are expected to work together to promote weight loss. Bupropion and naltrexone have shown individually that they may assist individuals looking to lose weight and in clinical trials, when used together, they showed a higher effectiveness than placebos. Unlike Xenical, which works by blocking fat absorption from the digestive system, Contrave will work in the hypothalamus of the brain to help reduce food intake and possibly cravings.
Belviq acts as an anoretic in helping obese patients lose weight, but is intended only for those with a further health condition such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes. These conditions are generally associated with suffering from excess weight and obesity, hence requiring the treatment. Belviq works in a similar way to the previously available treatment Reductil, in that it makes the patient feel full and satiated so they will naturally consume less food. During testing Belviq showed minimal side effects, the most common of which was headache.
Like Contrave, Qnexa is a combination medication that uses two existing drugs as the foundation for helping with weight loss. It is also intended to help with related conditions such as type 2 diabetes and has shown benefits for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. In this case phentermine would help suppress appetite while it is believed that topiramate would assist overall weight loss progress. So far reported side effects include dry mouth, tingling sensations and constipation.
With obesity numbers still increasing in both children and adults, medications like these, along with the implementation of proper exercise and diet regimes, are crucial to combating a condition that is fast becoming more detrimental than smoking. While experts and doctors agree that these treatments should not be seen as the first option, the availability of more obesity medications means it would be easier for patients to find appropriate prescription medication which has so far been lacking.
If Xenical works so well, why do we even need different treatments?