FDA has officially approved two new weight loss drugs for carefully controlled use among overweight and obese Americans with a BMI of 30 and above (or 27 and higher if they currently suffer from an existing weight-related condition such as hypertension or diabetes). This is exciting news in the world of weight loss because diet pills rarely make it to market due to the inherent risks involved with the targeted consumer. Before Qsymia (phentermine/topiramate) and Belviq (lorcaserin) were approved this past month, the last diet pill to go to market was Xenical (orlistat) in 1999.
Qsymia, Vivus Inc.’s drug that was pushed through this week, is a combination of two existing drugs: an appetite-suppressing stimulant, and an anti-seizure medication that has been shown to promote satiety.
Although this sounds like a promising way to shed pounds, diet drugs come with a wave of controversy and significant questions about safety.
If an individual is artificially suppressing his appetite and increasing his satiety as Qsymia intends, then three key issues arise:
1. Why/how would the user ever learn to eat healthy foods that can actually do these things naturally?
2. Why would the user ever learn to avoid the sugary, refined carbs and salty foods that promote continual binging and overconsumption?
3. Why would the user ever deal with the emotional and psychological issues that truly underlie an individual’s poor eating habits?
If a drug can take care of the “hard” stuff, then the individual never learns to tackle the fundamental cause behind excess weight head-on.
Obesity aside, what about the other dangers associated with poor diet and lifestyle? What about cancer and heart disease? Weight loss should be, needs to be, a learning process. As you’re losing weight, you have to learn how to healthfully maintain your new size.
If someone is going to use a weight loss pill to assist their weight loss process, it must be in conjunction with some form of weight loss program, or provision of education/guidance/counseling for diet and exercise.
For many, weight loss can seem an insurmountable hurdle, but after years in the healthcare industry, I’ve found that if you give someone a pill, they often stop trying.
Best case scenario, this new drug can help an overweight or obese individual jump start weight loss, but then comes the rest. The approval of Qsymia is not going to make a huge impact on the obesity epidemic as a whole but some people may find it helpful.