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Weight Loss Pill Qsymia 'Gaining Traction'

How Well Does It Work?

"In our clinical studies, we found weight loss of up to 10% [over the starting weight] over a year," Miller says. Within the first six weeks, weight losses of 5% occurred, he says.

Qsymia works, says Tim Church, MD, PhD, MPH, professor of preventative medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Institute at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He was involved in clinical trials and is a consultant for Vivus.

"The most important thing is, it's not a vanity drug," he says. Yet, there are cautions with its use, he says. "The biggest issue with this drug is to keep it out of the hands of women who are trying to get pregnant or who are pregnant.''

Taking it during pregnancy raises the risk for birth defects such as cleft palate.

Other possible side effects are an increased heart rate, suicidal thoughts, and a greater risk of the eye problem glaucoma.

Dissenting Views

In a statement by Public Citizen's Wolfe, issued after the FDA approval, he said: "It is magical and delusional thinking for anyone to believe that a drug will turn off hunger without hitting other targets where it will do harm, usually to the cardiovascular system."

Peter Galier, MD, an internal medicine specialist at the UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, Calif., says he has been getting many requests from his patients for Qsymia. Because of its expense, he says, he will sometimes prescribe the two drugs that have been on the market -- topiramate and phentermine -- separately, but in a similar dose.

He also gives them diet and exercise instructions.

Even so, he is not overly impressed. "I have seen weight loss in the first 30-60 days, but then they seem to adjust to both medicines, and the effect wears off. I often [then] see more weight gain than where they started."

When patients start on the drugs, he suggests they take advantage of the appetite-suppressing advantages to focus on changing their diet and starting to exercise. He sees it as an opportunity to get your lifestyle in order.

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