Before You Take Drugs for Weight Loss

Weight loss drugs should be used with caution says FDA

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved two new weight loss medications. They caution against using these drugs to lose a few “vanity” pounds.

Many weight loss drugs have been approved but later taken off the market because of toxic effects. The FDA made a statement after approving two new formulations, where they urge caution and consideration before using them.

Belviq and Qsymia are for people whose weight issues are related to health problems. They are not intended to be taken for cosmetic weight loss.

"Talk to a doctor about weight loss strategies."

First author, Eric Colman, MD, of the FDA, and his colleagues published a statement about weight loss medications, past and present.

The authors noted that most weight loss meds in the past have had significant off-label use, which has exposed some serious problems with the drugs.

There are two new drugs recently approved by the FDA for use with a diet and exercise program. They led to weight loss and improved metabolic measures, like cholesterol and blood pressure, in the FDA trials.

However, both are appetite suppressants and are not without potential side effects.

The drugs are approved for people in two categories: 

  1. People who are obese and have a body mass index (BMI) over 30, and
  2. People who are overweight, have a BMI over 27 and have a weight-related health condition, like diabetes or high blood pressure.

In the statement, the authors said, “The FDA acknowledges that there is more to learn about these drugs."

“Because these drugs are associated with potentially serious risks and are intended to be taken long-term, it is important that their use be limited to patients for whom they are indicated.”

One of the drugs, Belviq (lorcaserin) is made by Arena Pharmaceuticals and is expected to be on the market in a few months. Arena Pharmaceuticals has not released information about the cost of the drug.

The other new drug, Qsymia (phentermine plus extended-release topiramate), is made by Vivus. 

It is available at a cost of $140 to $220 for a 30-day supply depending on dose and pharmacy.

For anyone considering these types of drugs, the risks and benefits should be discussed with a doctor and/or a pharmacist.

This perspective was published on October 10 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The authors disclose no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 25, 2012
Last Updated:
November 5, 2012