Weight Loss Pills: Will They Help Us With Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?

Weight Loss Pills: Will They Help Us With Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?

By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on July 04, 2012

The Change in Obesity

Happy 4th of July and Happy Birthday America! Today is the day we celebrate our most cherished American document, the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration wherein certain truths were asserted: all people are “created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

As we formed our great republic, we were hard-working, independent people who worked the land and by and large had normal BMIs. Unfortunately, the modern epidemic of obesity is threatening our collective life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So it was with great anticipation, that the first new weight loss drug in over a decade was approved by the FDA.

Can a Drug Help Obesity?

The anti-obesity drug, Belviq (lorcaserin) was approved in July 2012. This medication works by affecting appetite at the brain level, specifically by activating brain receptors for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is present throughout the body and brain. This medication is only approved for the following people:

  1. Those with a BMI greater than 30
  2. Those with a BMI greater than 27 and with at least one serious medical problem related to weight, such as Diabetes Mellitus type 2, Hypertension, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, etc.

This medication will have to be stopped if one dose does not lose five percent of a person's total body weight at the 12 week mark. Overall, the reported weight loss with Belviq is modest and unfortunately, many folks do not lose any weight.

The FDA initially rejected this drug in 2010 requiring additional safety studies. It is a cautionary tale to remember that other weight loss medicines have been taken off the market due to cardiovascular concerns, such as:

  • Meridia (sibutramine)
  • Redux (dexfenfluramine)

In 1999 Xenical (orlistat), an intestinal fat blocker, was approved and is now available over the counter in the form of Alli. If used in conjunction with daily exercise and a low-fat Mediterranean heart healthy diet, Alli does assist in modest weight loss.

Tips to Get Healthy

The fight against obesity related health problems is tough. Really tough. But just like the American Revolutionary war was no picnic, our individual and family’s health is worth fighting for. So pledge every day to:

  • Eat healthy, colorful, nutritious foods in moderation.
  • Keep yourself strong by doing DAILY exercise. Prevention of obesity is easier than treatment of obesity.
  • See your physician
  • Calculate your BMI
  • Work with your health team to manage any chronic medical conditions.

And please enjoy an American summer picnic with your loved ones on this joyous, patriotic day.

Be Strong, Be Healthy, and Be in Charge!

- Dr. Holly L. Thacker

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