MANKATO — News hit last week about a new weight-loss pill that promises big results.
And already dietitian Roxanne Steffen’s clients are hitting her up.
“I’ve already been asked about it,” said Steffen, who works for Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.
The pill, called Qsymia, was approved for patients who are overweight or obese and also have at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol.
The drug claims to offer hope for those who have failed to lose weight in other ways. Its path to approval, however, underscores how difficult it has been for drugmakers to find obesity treatments that are safe and effective.
The drug’s maker, Vivus Inc., plans to bring the drug to market later this year. No word yet on what the pills will cost.
In testing, the drug led patients to lose more weight than two other weight-loss pills recently review by the FDA. Patients taking Qsymia for a year lost 6.7 percent of their body weight in one study and 8.9 percent in another study, the FDA said. The company said patients on the strongest formulation tested lost nearly 11 percent of their weight.
Steffen, however, says her advice to clients today will be the same as it ever was: A smart diet combined with regular exercise and consultation with your physician is the best way to manage your weight.
“The thing is, it’s better to prevent weight gain than trying to lose it,” Steffen said.
She said obesity carries with it increased risks for hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, even cancer.
When it comes to this new pill, Steffen said she recommends people do their homework.
“The drug itself should only be used as recommended,” she said. “There are a lot of options out there. Be an informed consumer, do your research.”
Despite its impressive performance in clinical trials, Qsymia is not exactly a scientific breakthrough. The drug is actually a combination of two older drugs long known to help with weight loss: phentermine and topirimate.
Phentermine is a stimulant that suppresses the appetite and has long been used for short-term weight loss. Topiramate is an anticonvulsant that makes people feel more satisfied after eating.
Researchers say the innovation of Qsymia lies in targeting more than one of the brain signals that drive people to overeat.
“We now know there are multiple pathways that determine how much energy we take in every day,” said Dr. Tim Garvey of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “If you intervene on one pathway, it’s hard to make much of a difference. You really need to attack multiple mechanisms to get a pronounced effect.”
Qsymia is the second weight-loss drug approved by the FDA in less than a month, following Arena Pharmaceutical’s pill Belviq in late June. Previously the agency had not approved a new drug for long-term weight loss since 1999.
This report contains information from The Associated Press