A Drug To Combat Obesity, Safely? Not yet.
It seems that nowadays, there is literally a drug for almost everything. High blood pressure? Check. Diabetes? Check. Have social anxiety? No problem, there is a drug for that too. However, what remains stubbornly elusive is the holy grail, a drug to fight obesity.
Big pharma has been working for decades to develop the magic pill. With obesity at an all-time high of nearly 35% in the U.S., it would literally be a financial winfall for the company who could develop a medication that could safely and effectively help people lose excess weight.
The road is littered with obesity drug failures--medications which seemed promising at first, but later turned out to be dangerous due to their side effect profiles. Early attempts at obesity drugs focused on speeding up a person's metabolism. In the 1960's and 1970's, amphetamines (yep, we used 'em) were used to increase a person's basal metabolic rate, and thereby cause weight loss. However, there were a few small problems with that--namely addiction, increases in blood pressure and accelerated heart rate. Weight loss also turned out to be temporary--cessation of the drug caused the body's metabolic rate to reset to normal, and the extra pounds returned.
Then in the 1990's came the "fen-phen" controversy. The drugs phentermine (an amphetamine) was combined with another drug called fenfluramine and marketed as a drug to help with weight reduction. Unfortunately, many reports of heart valve disorders caused by fen-phen caused the FDA to withdraw the drug from the U.S. market in 1997.
A more recent attempt at finding the "miracle drug" for obesity includes orlistat, a drug which binds with the fat a person ingests in their diet. The idea behind the drug was that the obese individual would not absorb the fat from the food, and the drug would transport the fat through the intestinal tract and into the feces. Unfortunately, it also has side effects, including increased bowel movements, and other unpleasant gastrointestinal maladies.Continued on the next page