Is it a New or Old Weight Loss Drug?

This month I am talking about obesity & weight loss. By our human (and American) nature, we would all like a quick fix to solve our weight issues. This summer, the FDA approved not one, but TWO new weight loss drugs.  My last blog addressed lorcaserin (Belviq), and today’s focus is really something old in a new package.

Qsymia was FDA approved in July 2012, and it is a combination of two older drugs that have been used independently to help with weight loss: phentermine and topiramate. Phentermine is an appetite suppressant, and was half of the infamous fen-fen (a diet pill combo that was removed from the market once its use was associated with the development of pulmonary hypertension (a damaging condition in the lungs) and heart valve issues. Phentermine by itself is still approved for “short term” use- a few weeks- as an appetite suppressant, but there is limited efficacy and safety data available. Topiramate was originally classified as an anti-seizure medication, but indications now also include migraine prevention. Physicians and patients were generally pleased to see that a side effect of topiramate is weight loss (to the point where I have had patients without frequent migraines ask if I will prescribe this drug “just in case”!)

Qsymia combines these two drugs, and showed significant weight loss at one year- an average of 8.9%. Both drug components are  at much lower doses than the individual drugs are typically prescribed, which hopefully will limit side effects. Indications for this new drug are for patients who have a BMI>30 (defined as obese) OR if they are overweight (BMI>27) AND have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.

If you meet those qualifications and are interested in trying this new drug, don’t rush to your doctor quite yet! Qsymia is not yet in pharmacies, though it is anticipated to be in “certified pharmacies” next month (September 2012).

BOTTOM LINE: The newly approved weight loss medication, Qsymia, combines two older medications and may prove to be significantly effective in helping treat obesity, but it is not available quite yet. 

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