Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Could the key to weight loss be in the brain? That’s what drug makers are banking on with the FDA approval of new drugs designed to make you think you’re full.
“Our first new drugs for obesity in over 10 years,” says Dr. Marc Itskowitz, an internist at Allegheny General Hospital. “We’re losing the battle against obesity, so I think having extra medication is helpful.”
Qsymia — a combination of two older medications — came out last fall. Belviq, a brand new medicine, will soon be arriving in pharmacies.
Both were approved last summer and have helped people lose about five to 10 percent of their body weight if they’re more than 35 pounds heavier than they should be.
Other diet drugs work as appetite suppressants, or they block absorption of certain foods.
The two new ones activate a receptor in the brain that signals a feeling of being full with less food.
Some critics are being cautious. Belviq was rejected by the FDA in 2010 because of heart valve side effects. Qsymia increases the heart rate in some patients.
In the past, other diet drugs have been pulled from the market because of the risk of cardiac complications.
“The recommendation is to see them every month and to monitor their blood pressure and pulse,” says Dr. Itskowitz.
The new drugs are about $150 a month, though insurance covers it for one out of three people. Qsymia is available only through prescription mail order.
Of course, the drugs don’t take the place of diet and exercise.
“I think you can help patients jump start a weight loss program,” explains Dr. Itskowitz. “It’s recommended to stop the medicine if they have not lost five percent of their weight in three months, because not everyone will respond to it.”