Weight Loss Lemons

New York Times Medical Writer, Danielle Ofri, M.D., recently covered an article about the weight loss drug industry, bringing to light some very valid points about the weight loss drugs many individuals often blindly consume.

If you have ever struggled with weight management, even if only slight, nothing seems like a better idea than the quickest route to success. Fitting into that “little black dress” for a party on Sunday or looking slim in your swimsuit for that vacation at the end of the month – there’s too much to do and too little time to do it, so a quick-fix just makes sense.

Qnexa, the newest drug edging its way to the market, was recently held back due to an increased risk of cardiovascular events and the danger of cleft palate in babies born to mothers on the drug. This is not the first time this has happened, but in the recent past weight loss drugs, such as fen-phen, ephedra and others have been pulled too late, after people put their lives at-risk – dying to be thin, literally.

Dr. Ofri cited an analogy by Dr. Michael S. Lauer, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, who voted in opposition of the release of Qnexa, stating that weight loss drugs are like the lemons of the used-car industry. Patients know very little about the drug and pharmaceutical companies know too much. The sale comes down to price and the risk remains a mystery to the buyer – until it is too late.

If you are considering a “quick-fix” – prescribed or from the shelves of your local vitamin shop – reconsider. Many individuals assume that if (a) it is sold within the United States, it must be safe and (b) if it is prescribed it really must be safe. Both of these assumptions are wrong and in some cases, dead wrong.

Remember that those supplements and pills found on the shelves of vitamin and herbal shops are not government regulated, in fact they don’t have to undergo any form of manufacturing regulation, so determining safety is completely up to you.

As for prescription drugs – the industry is a lot like politics, more money can make almost anything happen. Dr. Lauer voted against the release of Qnexa because of the large number of weight loss drugs that have slipped passed rigorous testing and research, only to be recalled after it claimed too many lives or caused too many illnesses. Fen-phen, ephedra, phenylpropanolamine, and sibutramine caused adverse cardiovascular effects, while rimonabant was approved in Europe only to cause severe psychiatry disturbances. Xenical is the only prescribed weight-loss drug to maintain its place on the market and, although it won’t lead to death, it isn’t without side effects – loose, oily stools, without a moment’s notice.

Pharmaceutical companies rush these drugs to the market because consumer demand is high – more than 60 percent of the U.S. population is overweight or obese. For the sake of your health, don’t reach for the pills, focus on diet, exercise and acceptance, despite what the media dances in front of our faces – everyone was not meant to be a size zero – there is a happy medium of healthy and you won’t find it at the bottom of a pill jar.

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