Obese Children Suffer Like Cancer Kids
Behavior Therapy/Weight-Loss Drug may Help Some Teens
WebMD News Archive
Berkowitz concludes that adding drug therapy to behavior
therapy makes a powerful combination. The reason? Obese children face toxic
environments both inside and outside their bodies.
"Behavior therapy helps kids deal with this toxic outside
environment. You get all this junk food coming at you, this television, this
sedentary culture, and you teach families to manage that," he says.
"The drug targets the kids' internal environment -- the biology of
Meridia is not by any means a totally safe drug. It's now
approved only for adult use -- and many adults who take the drug have dangerous
increases in blood pressure and pulse rate. Citing at least 32 patient deaths,
the consumer group Public Citizen has called for a ban on Meridia. About 40% of the
teens in the Berkowitz study had to have their Meridia dose reduced because of
high blood pressure and/or high pulse rate. Doctors have to keep a close watch
on patients taking the drug.
"When we did that -- closely monitor the kids -- we could
keep blood pressure under control," Berkowitz says. "Their pulse rate
did go up. But we saw a doubling in reductions in hunger compared to the
placebo group. The drug is working the way we think it is working. ... My own
belief is when you follow these guidelines, Meridia is a relatively safe
medication. ... Although we had some adverse events, we could put most teens on
the right dose and they were quite successful."
Berkowitz has already begun a larger study. Schwimmer agrees
with Berkowitz's view that there's a need for more and better treatments for
"I think we need multiple tools including drug
treatment," he says. "There are so many obese children. People are
desperate to be able to offer them care. Many doctors will use medications, and
it is going to be essential to have trials like the one Berkowitz has done to
understand which are effective -- and for whom. It will be one important
strategy. It is very important that they used the drug only in combination with