Obese Teens Lose Weight With Meridia
After a Year on Weight Loss Drug, Teens Drop 15 Pounds
July 17, 2006 - Obese teens in a one-year weight-counseling program lost 15
pounds if they took the weight lossdrug
Meridia -- but gained 4 pounds if they did not.
The findings come from a clinical trial sponsored by Abbott, which makes
Meridia. Each of the 22 medical centers participating in the study had its own
weight loss program. Some were more effective than others.
But overall, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia researcher Robert I.
Berkowitz, MD, and colleagues found that the 368 extremely overweight 12- to
16-year-olds in the study who took Meridia did better after one year than the
130 who took inactive placebo pills.
"The addition of [Meridia] to a behavior therapy program in our
12-month, placebo-controlled study conducted in obese adolescents ... resulted in
statistically significant improvements [in body mass]," Berkowitz and
colleagues report in the July 18 issue of Annals of Internal
Indeed, the body mass index for the teens who took Meridia -- a measure of
weight relative to height and the chief indicator of obesity--
dropped about 17% from the "overweight" category (the highest risk
category for children and teens) to the "at risk of overweight"
In addition to losing weight, Meridia helped teens lose an average of more
than 3 inches from their waistline. Those who took placebo pills lost less than
an inch of waist circumference.
Moreover, lab tests suggest that those who took Meridia lowered their risk
for heart diseaseand
Fewer teens taking Meridia dropped out of the study -- but the dropout rate
still was high. Only about three-fourths of those who got Meridia, and fewer
than two-thirds of those who got placebo, finished the study.
Over the year of taking the drug, Meridia was well tolerated. Racing pulse
was a little more common in those who took the drug, but study doctors did not
consider this clinically significant. The drug also sometimes causes dry mouth,
constipation, dizziness, and insomnia.
In an editorial accompanying the Berkowitz team's report, CDC researcher
William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, notes that the findings do not address the question
of whether Meridia will work for longer than one year.
And Dietz raises an important question: Who needs drug therapy for obesity?
Given the fact that it's a life-long struggle to keep weight off, will teens
who get short-term benefit from the drug need to continue treatment
"We must still carefully weigh the decision to prescribe drug therapy,
because the long-term risks or benefits of drug therapy in children and
adolescents are unknown," Dietz suggests. "Because drug therapy is
likely to have higher lifetime risks and costs than behavioral interventions,
physicians should aim for sustained behavior change and reserve drug therapy
for the severely overweight adolescent who cannot otherwise lose
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