February 28, 2012
Hungry to take advantage of an unfulfilled market, the pharmaceutical industry is hoping the latest diet pill to gain federal approval will open the way for other drugs in development that are designed to cut pounds off of millions of obese Americans.
Previously rejected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because testing showed it could cause serious heart problems, Qnexa, which is produced by Vivus, has been endorsed by a key FDA advisory committee. The FDA plans to make a final decision by mid-April on whether to allow the drug to be sold.
A combination of two existing drugs, the appetite suppressant phentermine and the anti-seizure medication topiramate, Qnexa is on track to become the first new prescription weight-loss medication since 1999.
If it reaches consumers, Qnexa will probably have no shortage of interested takers. There are an estimated 75 million obese adults in the U.S., which has an obesity rate of nearly 35%.
Some health experts are wary of the pharmaceutical industry’s push to sell weight-loss drugs, arguing that they are only temporary fixes to a problem that is more effectively solved by better nutrition and healthier life style choices.