Is there a weight-loss drug in your future?

I remain dubious about the potential for weight loss drugs.  I have served on several FDA Advisory Panels.

Recently, an FDA Advisory Panel voted (split vote) against approving the weight loss drug Qnexa; read more on WebMD:

While people taking it don’t get thin, they do lose 6% to 10% of their body weight — if they also undergo a program of diet and exercise.

But the drug has side effects, both known and theoretical. It may cause birth defects, it may increase suicide risk, it can cause a condition called metabolic acidosis that speeds bone loss, it increases risk of kidney stones, and may have other serious effects.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported on another drug, lorcaserin, which shows promise in reducing weight, without obvious side-effects.

At 1 year, 47.5% of patients in the lorcaserin group and 20.3% in the placebo group had lost 5% or more of their body weight

The accompanying editorial states:

The justification for using lorcaserin to manage obesity is not greater efficacy than currently available drugs, but rather an apparently much better safety and adverse-event profile and very clear-cut beneficial effects on risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The FDA remains very cautious about approving obesity drugs, after Phen-Fen problems with heart valve and pulmonary circulation complications, and the current controvery over heart complications with the diabetes drug Avandia.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I suggest getting back to eating healthy foods (not starvation!), avoiding prepared foods, and maintaining an active lifestyle.

Dr John Ellis MD

Board-certified anesthesiologist, with expertise in cardiovascular anesthesia and the implications of obesity and sleep apnea in anesthesia. See for professional information. Dr. Ellis has used the strategies in here to: (1) lose 120 lbs over 18 months, (2) stop all antihypertensive medicines, and (3) no longer need CPAP treatment for sleep apnea.


  1. Say some of the good folks at U Chicago @

    The incentives for medical solutions to obesity are already
    immense because of the prevalence of obesity and therefore the
    size of the potential market for solutions. Innovation has already
    occurred in the form of bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass
    and gastric banding, currently the most successful treatment for
    morbid obesity. New drugs for obesity may replace the $17 billion annual market for the high-cholesterol medicine Lipitor, which is now the best-selling drug in the world. Vivus’s new weight-loss drug Onexa, likely to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration this fall, is surely the first of many. Technological change thus may be more successful reducing obesity than attempts to change people’s eating and exercise habits have been.

    I remain dubious! My limiting training in economics would say you should raise the prices related to externalities, and tax bad foods such as soda and tax-incent gym memberships, to start.

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