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Weight Loss With Medication

There's no magic bullet yet -- but for people with obesity, weight loss drugs can be a helpful part of treatment.

The Future of Weight Loss Medications

Many doctors and researchers hope the weight loss drugs of the next decade will make Xenical and Meridia look crude. As researchers learn more and more about the complex set of mechanisms that regulate our weight, the drugs we use will become increasingly sophisticated.

A number of medications are now in various stages of development with more specific targets. Many are designed to affect some of the hormones -- such as leptin -- that play a role in appetite and weight regulation.

Wyatt has modest hopes for new weight loss drugs in the immediate future. "I don't see any of the new drugs as obvious blockbusters," she says. She points out that we may need combinations of new drugs to have a substantial effect. The problem is that there are so many different mechanisms that affect our weight that just targeting one may not be enough.

Bray says we'll just have to wait. "Until we get the data from the long-term trials of these drugs," he tells WebMD, "we just won't know how safe or effective they are."

"We're really just in the early stages of using weight loss drugs," says Wyatt. "It's just like when we first began to use drugs for high blood pressure, and they didn't work all that well and caused a lot of side effects. But we'll get better drugs, and as we do, doctors will use them more and more."

So barring some unforeseen breakthrough, weight loss drugs are not going to be "the answer" to obesity any time soon. But along with diet and exercise, they can be an important part of the solution.

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Reviewed on May 06, 2004

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