If the obesity crisis does not get immediate attention,it is going to cost millions,this is the gist of this article.Three drug companies are trying to get their drugs on the market to fight obesity.But are obesity fighting drugs really the answer or do we just need common sense action from the obese population? Make up your mind after reading about the side effects of some of these obesity drugs.
"A trio of California companies are competing to have their obesity drugs become the first federally approved weight-loss medication in 13 years, with a pill made by Vivus of Mountain View due to be reviewed by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration expert panel Wednesday.The agency is being urged to allow all three treatments onto the market, with some doctors groups saying the obesity epidemic in the U.S. requires immediate attention. Since the 1960s, the percentage of obese Americans has nearly tripled, accounting for more than $100 billion in annual medical costs, by some estimates. And with only one long-term obesity drug approved for sale, many experts fear the nation is headed for a worse crisis.
"If we don't do something about obesity now, we'll pay for it," said Dr. John Morton, director of bariatric surgery at Stanford University Medical Center, who is among those hoping for a new drug.
But because the three treatments under review have been linked to worrisome side effects -- ranging from elevated heart rates to birth deformities -- others oppose rushing them onto pharmacy shelves.
"If you are going to do more harm than good, that's not something the FDA should be a part of," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, of the Public Citizen's Health Research Group in Washington, calling proper diet and exercise the best ways to stay slim.
Turning to exercise
That view is shared by many others,
including 37-year-old Kathryn Winn, of San Jose, a swimming instructor who decided recently she needed to shed some of her 254 pounds. About six years ago, she had enrolled in a clinical study to test a diet pill because "I was looking for a quick fix," she recalled. But she lost only a little bit, which she attributed to eating better and exercising. So this time she has begun working out at Fast Action Training, a San Jose fitness program."I'm down 18 pounds already," she said. "It's hard, but it's something you have to do for yourself."
Nonetheless, America is losing the waistline war. While about 13 percent of its population was obese in 1960, that had swollen to 34 percent by 2008, according to the latest federal data. And a Columbia University study last year predicted it could hit 50 percent by 2030. Obesity is defined according to a formula that takes into account a person's weight and height. A 5-foot 6-inch person generally would be considered obese, for example, if they weighed at least 186 pounds.
Obesity can lead to health problems ranging from diabetes, stroke and heart disease to cancer, liver ailments and pregnancy complications. It's also an oppressive financial burden for the nation.
Totaling $79 billion in 2008, U.S. heath care costs attributed to obesity are expected to reach $139 billion in 2013 and nearly $344 billion in 2018, according to a study by the United Health Foundation and American Public Health Association.
Few medical options
Yet people unable to trim down on their own have few medical options short of getting gastric bypass or other bariatric surgery, which typically is performed only on the severely overweight.Because they were linked to heart and other problems, the appetite suppressants fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine were taken off the market in 1997, followed by the drug Meridia in 2010. That has left only four FDA-approved weight-loss treatments. Phentermine, phendimetrazine and diethylpropion are for short-term use. The only long-term drug is orlistat, approved in 1999 as the prescription medication Xenical and in 2007 as the over-the-counter Alli.
All four have troubling side effects. Those include sleeplessness, headaches, increased blood pressure and higher heart rates with the short-term drugs and "severe liver injury" in rare cases with orlistat, federal officials say. As a result, Wolfe's group has petitioned the FDA to halt orlistat's sale and European health officials recently put it under scrutiny.
In September, a U.S. Senate committee directed the FDA to report in March "on the steps it will take to support the development of new treatments for obesity." And in October, the American Dietetic Association, the Obesity Society and two other medical organizations urged approval of the California drugs, saying all "had evidence supporting their efficacy."
Vivus claims one of its studies showed people taking a full dose of its new drug Qnexa for 56 weeks lost 37 pounds on average and all of the studies demonstrated "statistically significant" weight loss, the FDA has said. But fears have been raised about Qnexa and the two others under federal review -- lorcaserin, developed by Arena Pharmaceuticals of San Diego, and Contrave, from Orexigen Therapeutics of San Diego.
Vivus acknowledges that Qnexa, which contains two already approved drugs -- an appetite suppressant and a seizure treatment -- can cause constipation, headaches and respiratory infections. In addition, the FDA has expressed concern that the drug might impair memory, trigger suicidal thoughts, raise heart rates and cause birth defects, warning that babies whose mothers take the Qnexa ingredient topiramate "have an increased risk for developing cleft lip or cleft palate" during pregnancy.
Possible side effects
The agency also has noted that rats developed tumors after being tested with lorcaserin. And due to concerns about the possible cardiovascular side effects of Contrave, it ordered Orexigen last year to conduct a new study with about 10,000 patients, which analysts estimate will cost up to $125 million.Dr. Peter Klassen, Orexigen's head of global development, said the company already has spent about $350 million developing Contrave and had to lay off 40 percent of its workforce after the new study was ordered. But he said it should have enough cash to carry out the testing. Officials at Vivus and Arena declined to be interviewed.
David Gollaher of the California Healthcare Institute, which represents biomedical companies, said it remains unclear how the FDA ultimately will rule on the three drugs. But he said he hopes it doesn't base its decision on the widespread view that obesity is less a medical problem than a failure of willpower.
Considering the national crisis caused by the growing numbers of overweight Americans, he added, "If there were effective drug treatments that had a balanced side-effect profile, those would have a major impact on public health."
Contact Steve Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5043.
After reading this article I seriously doubt the safety of these drugs.What is the use of curing obesity but you end up with dangerous side effects?