An effective diet pill is the holy grail of Big Pharma. So far, all American drug makers efforts to produce a drug that will combat obesity have been singularly unsuccessful. Yet the search has been going on for more than a hundred years. Always dogged by the undignified at best downright harmful at worst, side effects. Now a government panel is recommending that the Food and Drug Administration or FDA approve the first anti fat pill in over ten years.
Qnexa is the latest attempt to contrive an anti-obesity medication for many different types of sufferers without the debilitating side effects. This drug has been previously disallowed because it was thought to lead to raised heart rate problems and even birth defects if given to pregnant women. The chief difficulty with anti-obesity drugs is that obesity is not a cause of illness, rather a symptom many and varied underlying body functions. A pill to fight a high body mass index is akin to a pill for a high temperature.
For the pharmaceutical makers the market is huge because America is unfortunately full of huge people. There are estimated to be over 74 million people classified as obese, which is more than one-third of the whole population. To date the drug manufacturers have failed to block one of the human bodies basic processes. It is key to our survival that we eat sufficient calories and hold them like a battery holds energy, in our body fat. It is not an option to simply stop eating. Dieting gives our bodies the message to store more quickly because we don’t know when the next meal is coming.
It goes back in time and evolution to an era when food and calories were scarce and hard-won, so that our bodies evolved very effective mechanisms to keep us alive. The modern abundance of glorious foodstuffs is not an environmental factor that we are built to cope with. Chemical engineering has repeatedly failed to provide an effective drug despite thousands of experiments and unfortunately some fatalities among participating subjects.
History of Anti-Obesity Drugs
We are no longer hunter gatherers on the savannah so early anti-obesity drugs aimed to speed up the metabolism or the rate at which we burn calories. When we don’t burn up enough calories we convert them to stored fat. The first anti-obesity pill was probably dinitrophenol, actually a poisonous industrial chemical, in the 30’s. Incidents like this led to the establishment of the FDA. Amphetamines became the pill of the 50’s and 60’s again by speeding up metabolism but at a cost of addiction. Phentermine can still be prescribed for weight loss but only on a short-term restricted course.
In the 90’s the ‘fen-phen’ scandal caused heart valve breakdown to 33% of those prescribed the combination of phentermine and fenfluramine. The FDA does not control the combined prescription practices of individual doctors and eighteen million prescriptions were doled out to obese patients at that time.
Unless Qenexa is approved, orlistat (brand name Xenical) will remain the only anti-obesity drug on the market. It works differently as a block to fat absorption but still has disturbing side effects. Watch out for the Qenexa decision in April.
A FDA panel comprised of independent physicians voted 20-2 in favor of Qnexa on February 23, 2012.Â However,Â the FDA itself will render its ultimate decision on April 17th.Â Qnexa is a combination of Phenteramine and Topiramate.Â Phenteramine is an appetite suppressant already on the market (Ionamin) while Topiramate (Topamax) is an anti-epileptic drug that’s also used for Bipolar Depression.Â Research funded by Qnexa’s manufacturer, Vivus, supports significant weight lossÂ associated with the use of Qnexa.