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Weight Loss Pill Also Lowers Blood Pressure

Qnexa Suppresses Appetite, Lowers Blood Pressure in Study

Not Another Fen-Phen

Phentermine was once widely prescribed as the “phen” part of the fen-phen weight loss combo that shot to fame in the mid-1990s, and then fell from grace after its use was linked to pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs) and heart valve disease. The problems were found to be related to the “fen” or fenfluramine part of the combination, not the phentermine.

Louis Aronne, MD, founder and director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, believes that combination drugs such as Qnexa hold promise in the battle of the bulge.

“Instead of using single agents, we need to use combination drugs to break through the [weight loss] plateaus,” says Aronne, who was not involved in the trials but has been an adviser to Vivus and other companies developing weight loss drugs.

“This is a breakthrough in that we have something that we know is effective and we can use it at lower doses,” which improves the safety profile, he says.

Although both pills are independently FDA-approved, the new combination pill can’t be used simply by combining the two drugs, as the dosages in Qnexa are unique and lower than what is commercially available, he says.

If approved, candidates for Qnexa may include people with a BMI of 27 to 30 and other conditions related to being overweight, and people with a BMI of 30 or higher. A BMI takes height and weight into account to measure body fat. If your BMI is greater than 25, you are considered overweight. If it is over 30, you are considered obese.

Some people are candidates for weight loss surgery, and others who are just slightly overweight may be able get by with proper diet and exercise, Aronne says.

“The one-third of people who fall in the middle and have all the risks and complications of obesity -- that is where I see this drug having an application,” he says.

American Society of Hypertension President George Bakris, MD, a professor of medicine and the director of the Hypertension Center at the University of Chicago, is cautiously optimistic about the potential benefits of this new drug.

“I would like to see a 24-hour blood pressure reading to see if blood pressure levels really are down,” he says. “If true, that would be huge.”

He tells WebMD that blood pressure may look good in the office but may rise at night, for example, which is why the 24-hour reading would be more telling, he says.

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