Healthy living * Weight loss

New long term weight loss treatment

weight loss More effective than existing drug

A combination of two drugs is twice as effective as a popular anti-obesity pill when it comes to weight loss, new research has found.

The treatment also led to a reduction in blood pressure, cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease.

Researchers from the Duke Medical Centre, North Carolina tested the two drugs - phentermine and topiramate - on 2487 patients with a body mass index between 27 - 45.

Phentermine is an appetite suppressant, which is already used as a short term treatment for obesity.

Topiramate is an anticonvulsant used in the treatment of epilepsy.

Patients were randomly assigned to receive either the one of two doses of the drugs combination, called Qnexa, or a placebo, once a day, for 56 weeks.

Patients in the study also received diet and exercise advice.

Overall, 70 per cent of patients who were given the drug combination lost weight compared with five per cent of those who received the placebo.

Patients who took the drugs lost an average of 22lb in weight during the study period.

The researchers say the drugs combination is a more effective treatment for obesity than Orlistat, currently the only drug which is available for long-term treatment of obesity.

Recently, the US Food and Drug Administration warned that pregnant women taking Topiramate are at an increased risk of giving birth to babies with a cleft lip or palate. The drug has also been linked to memory problems, mood changes, including depression and anxiety.

Although 34 women fell pregnant during the study, no birth defects were reported. However, the researchers said there was no reason for women to take weight loss drugs during pregnancy or when they were trying to become pregnant.

The most common reported side-effects of the treatment included dry mouth, constipation and pins and needles, as well as an increase in psychiatric events at higher drug doses.

Researchers think the drug combination works by reducing hunger and increasing satiety, although other mechanisms may be involved.

"This kind of weight loss coupled with significant reductions in cardiometabolic risk factors, represents a potentially important advancement in the management of obesity," said Dr Kishore Gadde, who led the study.

"For obese patients who have failed to achieve meaningful weight loss with diet and exercise, we have just one treatment before jumping to bariatric surgery. We need more treatment options."

The findings are published in The Lancet.

This article was published on Mon 11 April 2011

Image © Knut Ekanger -

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