Will Qnexa Solve the Obesity Problem?

March 1, 2012

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medicationYou may have heard of Qnexa, a potential new weight loss drug under development. Will it be the answer to America’s weight problems?

A U.S. Drug and Food Administration (FDA) advisory panel recently reversed its earlier decision not to allow the drug to move forward toward approval. Safety concerns and the possibility of birth defects in children of women who became pregnant while taking the drug were among the top concerns. The FDA will decide whether to approve the drug on April 17, 2012.

Qnexa is a combination of two FDA drugs currently on the market: phentermine (an appetite suppressant) and topiramate (a drug used to treat seizures). Doctors can prescribe the two in combination for weight loss now, under what is called an off-label use. We have seen some promising results in some of our patients.

At The Center for Medical Weight Loss (CMWL), we often prescribe phentermine to help control appetite as part of an overall program. For some people, it really helps. Topiramate slows brain activity and theoretically should help with food cravings. In combination with phentermine it should lead to an increase in energy, which is exactly what you want while losing weight.

I do have concerns, though, that if this drug or any other future obesity medication is approved, marketing campaigns will make money by playing into the public’s never-ending desire to solve their weight problems simply by taking a pill and doing nothing else. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. In fact, people who take medications and do nothing else typically lose less than 5 pounds over a period of six months. Not very good results!

Compare that to a comprehensive program like the CMWL physician-initiated individualized program that combines body composition analysis, a balanced diet plan, regular exercise, and behavior modification counseling along with prescription appetite suppressants as needed to control the appetite. Preliminary studies are showing people on our program are losing 11.6 percent of their excess weight in just 12 weeks – and that’s without medication.

So while we do need additional tools in our weight loss tool kit, people should remember that no medication alone will provide the solution. Bottom line: I’m not convinced that Qnexa alone without physician counseling will be a good solution to weight problems. However, Qnexa combined with professional physician counseling could be a great option for doctors to have at their disposal to help their obese patients. Ultimately a comprehensive weight loss plan like that at CMWL, overseen by a medical professional trained in weight loss, will not only help you lose weight quickly and healthfully, but also help you learn to keep that weight off for good.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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