Weight-loss drugs

Are New Weight-Loss Drugs Safe?
The FDA has recently approved two weight-loss drugs — Lorcaserin and Phentermine/Topiramate. It’s the first time in almost 13 years that the FDA has approved any new drug for long-term weight loss.

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. It’s estimated that half of the population in 39 states will be obese by 2030.

“A lot of people are looking for that quick fix,” Dr. Travis says.

Bariatric surgeon Dr. Brian Quebbemann, cardiologist Dr. John Kennedy and Elaine Morrato, an associate professor in health systems, management and policy with the Colorado School of Public Health, join Dr. Travis to weigh in on the risks and benefits of weight-loss drugs.

“We do surgery and then we also have lifestyle management — weight loss with diet and exercise," Dr. Quebbemann says. "There’s nothing really in between, and these medications give us hope that something’s going to fill that void for the patients.”

Dr. Kennedy explains that primary pulmonary hypertension is a dangerous side effect of these weight-loss drugs. “Obesity is the biggest health problem in America today, and I can tell you that a pill is not the answer," he says.

Professor Morrato, who sits on the drug-approval panel, explains why she voted “yes” for one of the weight-loss drugs.

“The magnitude of the obesity epidemic is such that we need options in between, and we have to find a way to get them out there safely,” Professor Morrato adds.

Lisa participated in a clinical trial for weight-loss drug Lorcaserin and lost 40 pounds.

“'It was a magic bullet for me," she says.

Lisa acknowledges that she gained back the weight after going off the pill, which put her at risk for diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Despite the risks, Lisa says, “I would rather be on a drug the rest of my life that lets me lose weight and be healthy than have to get sick and then be on a drug to control that the rest of my life. That’s my choice.”

“We need to do whatever possible to battle this obesity epidemic, but I think we all agree that there is no such thing as a magic bullet,” Dr. Travis says. “These pills are not a magic bullet; they are not going to be for everyone out there. This is an individual discussion to have with your doctor.”

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