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New Weight-Loss Drugs Pass First Tests

More Pounds Lost With Epilepsy Drug Zonegran, New Satiety Drug Axokine
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WebMD Health News

April 8, 2003 -- Two new weight-loss drugs may help obese people, clinical trials suggest.

The findings come in two separate reports. In the first study, obese people lost 13 pounds after 16 weeks of adding the epilepsy drug Zonegran to a low-calorie diet. In the second study, the optimal dose of the experimental drug Axokine helped obese people lose nine pounds in 12 weeks. Both studies appear in the April 9 issue of TheJournal of the American Medical Association.

Zonegran is already FDA approved. It's used to treat epilepsy. During clinical trials, epilepsy patients treated with the drug lost weight. That was bad for them -- but it might be a good weight-loss drug.

Duke University researchers led by Kishore M. Gadde, MD, put 60 obese volunteers on a low-calorie diet. Half also got Zonegran; the others got a look-alike placebo. After 16 weeks, those who got only the diet lost about two pounds. But those getting Zonegran lost an average of 13 pounds. Side effects -- mostly fatigue -- were mild. However, Zonegran is known to cause dizziness, impaired thinking, and sleepiness in epilepsy patients. It's also been linked -- rarely -- to kidney stones. Zonegran's manufacturer, Elan Biopharmaceuticals, provided the drug for the study.

More weight-loss news from a special obesity issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

  Weight-Loss Programs Keep Pounds Off

  Jury Still Out on Low-Carbohydrate Diets

  Obese Children Suffer Like Cancer Kids

  Watching TV Instead of Your Waistline?

 

"The results of this short-term study provide preliminary evidence that [Zonegran], in conjunction with diet, can be more effective than diet alone for obese patients seeking to lose weight," Gadde and colleagues write.

Axokine is a brand new drug with hopes of being a totally different kind of weight-loss drug. It's a man-made chemical that mimics a chemical the brain makes to protect itself from injury. It was designed as a possible treatment for Lou Gehrig's disease. But when researchers gave the experimental drug to patients, they lost weight.

Later experiments showed why. The drug affects a powerful brain system called the leptin pathway. Leptin is a chemical messenger that tells you when you've had enough to eat. Obese people have leptin resistance; they lose the ability to know when they're full. Axokine apparently bypasses this resistance and flips the fullness switch.

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