Are New FDA-Approved Diet Drugs Worth the Risk?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Within the past month, the FDA has approved two new prescription weight-loss drugs.  While neither drug is being touted as a “magic pill” that will make weight loss a quick and easy process, they are still marketed as an aid to help those with significant weight loss goals.  It’s important to understand what these drugs do and how they work so that you can make informed decisions when it comes to your health.
Qysmia, which was approved in July, is a combination of two older drugs: phentermine (an appetite suppressant) and topiramate (which enhances feelings of satiety after eating.)  Beliviq, a similar drug the FDA approved in June, works by activating receptors in the brain that make a person feel full.  Both drugs are approved for two types of people:  obese individuals, and those who are overweight with at least one other health condition such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.  It is recommended that both drugs be used in combination with a healthy diet and regular exercise to promote weight loss. 
Both drugs carry significant risks.  Qysmia’s side effects can include (but are not limited to) heart palpitations and risk to a pregnant woman’s unborn baby.  Belviq’s side effects can include (but are not limited to) problems with attention and memory.  Because of the risks, Qysmia can only be dispensed by specially certified drugstores.   
In late-stage clinical trials, patients on the middle dose of Qsymia lost an average of 8.4 percent of their weight after one year. Those on the high dose lost 10.6 percent. By comparison, those on Arena’s Belviq lost an average of 5.8 percent of their weight after one year.”  Although the average rate of weight loss was smaller with Belviq, the risks associated with this drug appear to be lower.  The price of these drugs is yet to be revealed, but they aren’t expected to be cheap and won’t be covered by many insurance providers. 
It’s been 13 years since the FDA last approved a prescription weight-loss medication.  Until now, only one drug (Xenical) had been approved for long-term use and it was not commonly prescribed.  (If you’re wondering about Alli, that’s an over-the-counter drug that anyone can purchase.)  The FDA has hesitated giving approval to diet drugs in recent years, given the history of safety issues with products like fen-phen.   
I can understand why these drugs are tempting to try.  Weight loss can be a slow and difficult process, especially when you’re working hard and not seeing the results you’d expect.  Who wouldn’t want an extra boost to lose weight more quickly and easily?  But in my opinion, it’s better to look at the bigger picture.  Sure, you might see a slightly lower number on the scale than you would have through diet and exercise alone.  But is it worth the risk?  Isn’t it best to lose weight in a healthy way by establishing habits you can stick with for the rest of your life?  That way you’ll keep the weight off for good and not expose yourself to unnecessary danger just to lose a few extra pounds.  That’s my 2-cents.
What do you think?