Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

A Silver Bullet for Weight Loss?

If there's one constant in the world of weight loss, it's that there's no magic pill to melt off your excess pounds. At least, not yet.

But in the latest study of an experimental drug called Qnexa, researchers said obese patients taking the drug lost 10% of their body weight in a year. The pill combines two existing drugs — the weight-loss drug phentermine and the anti-epilepsy medication topiramate. The idea is to tackle the problem of weight gain on two different levels: phentermine, a distant cousin of amphetamines, can decrease appetite (although its long-term safety is still a question mark), while topiramate, which controls epileptic seizures by regulating electrical connections between nerves in the brain, also affects appetite and the body's ability to burn calories by modulating the same brain activity.

Patients on the pill also showed improvements in their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, all of which can lower their risk of developing heart disease. Still, more studies will need to confirm the pill's safety and effectiveness; last fall, the FDA rejected the drug for approval and asked the company for further safety studies, especially on the risk of heart problems and birth defects.

In other obesity-drug news year, scientists at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston tested an injectable compound called adipotide, a drug based on cancer research, and found that it slimmed fat monkeys by 11% in just a month.