Are you ready for a miraculous weight loss pill? Aren’t we all? As much as we’d all love to believe that they finally came up with a pill that will melt away the pounds, most of us are also worrying about the side effects, and rightly so. The FDA just approved yet another wonder drug, but it will still be up to the public to find out just how safe it is.
On Tuesday, the US Food and Drug Administration allowed another weight loss pill to be put on the market. It’s called Qsymia, and though it does have risky side effects, they believe the benefits outweigh the dangers. Dr. Janet Woodcock, Director of FDA’s research department said that “Obesity threatens the overall wellbeing of patients and is a major public health concern.” Because obesity impacts two-thirds of Americans, it does indeed seem like a major issue, but taking care of that problem with a pill is quite another matter. Some past weight loss drugs approved by the FDA were found to have very dangerous side effects that cost people their lives. You might remember the rise and fall of the popular diet pill Fen-Phen for example. Even after years of testing in the lab, some drugs can prove to have side effects that either weren’t observed in the controlled tests or were ignored as minor drawbacks.
Qysymia is a combination for stimulants and anti-seizure drugs and is one of the first new diet pills to become FDA approved in 13 years. Its side effects and risks include a fast heart rate, metabolic acidosis, birth defects, and heart damage. It is only approved for those considered obese, which is a BMI of 30 or more, and those with a BMI of 27 or more and who have a weight-related medical condition. The two experts on the FDA panel who voted against the approval of Qsymia worry that it will have “severe, even fatal, consequences.” Dr. Woodcock, however, believes that if it’s used properly and in combination with a healthy diet and regular exercise, it could be just the thing we need to halt the obesity epidemic.
I don’t know about other physicians, but I plan to stick to the less-miraculous prescription for a health weight- eating right and staying active. There just can’t be a pill for everything!
- Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.