Following trends in my sector always enables me to smell a new wave movement the size of a Tsunami coming. The first inkling I got were the release of statistics stating that obesity was now costing the NHS £4.2 billion a year alone. In the US obesity is costing the healthcare system £147 billion a year, obviously this also takes a toll on the overall economy with obesity ridden reports coming in from all over the world. At one point I remember Michelle Obama stepping up to tackle this issue via childhood obesity.
So we now know that obesity is costing all of us a lot of money but obesity is a disease which we should be respectful of further complicated by the fact it can be either a physical or mental illness, so I’m not sure chucking diet pills at people is the best way forward. And there’s the reason for this blog, diet pills….
Just how dangerous are these weight loss pills? ” In the space of one month Abbott has recalled Meridia due to quote “very modest weight loss” from taking the drug didn’t justify its risk of heart attack or stroke” we had Arena and Eisai falter at the first hurdle with lorcaserin due to quote “the weight loss…..was marginal” oh and the cancer risk as well. Already we can see how these recalls and quite frankly dangerous drugs are being reported, the risk is not mitigating the cause.
Then we have the newest diet drug Qnexa from Vivus which was unapproved last week due to heart risk AND birth defects but there is a difference here, in studies the marginal weight loss was 14.7 % compared to 2.5% in the placebo group. So it works, which would explain the next report that the FDA may now clear Qnexa.
The only other medical condition where this level of risk mitigation is put in place is Cancer. A life threatening condition of course denotes dangerous side effects particularly in later stages of the disease, the drugs themselves simply aren’t there yet. Watching the word usage in these FDA approval or non approval reports as it were we can see the wave coming. We can see obesity becoming the new cancer of approval systems in government attempts to stem it’s costs on their economy.
Obesity is costing a lot of money, yes, but so do most diseases, we can’t really put a cost on this can we? We are after all human and illness and disease are part of being human. With diseases such as cancer there is a risk of losing your life, were the patients in these weight loss studies at risk of developing cancer, harming their foetus or did they have existing heart conditions?. If the answer is yes to all three then by all means give them the drugs, if the answer is no, then I am more inclined to say this is not a life threatening illness and therefore has no place in such a high risk mitigation drug category.
Michelle is a health industry veteran who taught and worked in the field before training as a science journalist.
Featured by numerous prestigious brands and publishers, she specializes in clinical trial innovation--expertise she gained while working in multiple positions within the private sector, the NHS, and Oxford University.