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Free Lunch? Up-and-Coming Weight-Loss Drugs

By: Nancy Snyderman, M.D.

weight loss pills

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Eyeing a potential gold mine in the global obesity epidemic, pharmaceutical companies and universities have launched a massive drive to develop new and better diet pills. And I suspect over the next few years, we’ll have ripples of more and more diet drugs hitting the market. After all, the American public is overweight. More than two-thirds of us are obese, and we want something to fix it. Here’s a look at the next wave of diet drugs that may soon hit the market, as well as some off-label drugs used to treat obesity.

diet pills

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Rimonabant

Available in Europe since mid- 2006 as Acomplia, rimonabant is currently under review by the FDA for prescription use here under the name Zimulti. It has been dubbed the ultimate diet pill and blockbuster drug by the press and medical community. Rimonabant works by blocking endocannabinoid receptors—present in the brain, where they affect cravings, and in fat cells, where they play a role in metabolism. These are the same receptors that bring on the “munchies” in marijuana smokers. Besides helping to control appetite, rimonabant plays a role in the breakdown of glucose and fat, which may explain why people taking the drug see improvement in a range of risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, namely their blood glucose and cholesterol readings, which can’t be explained by weight loss alone. Diabetics who took rimonabant for six months lost two and a half times more weight (15 pounds versus 6 pounds) than those taking a placebo, according to a study sponsored by Sanofi Aventis, the drug’s manufacturer. As for side effects, people who took rimonabant were slightly more likely to suffer anxiety and depression. Clinically obese people with low levels of high density lipoproteins (“good” cholesterol) and high levels of triglycerides, who have no history of anxiety or depression, are the best candidates for this drug.

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