Weight Loss Pill Let Down

Why the newly-approved weight loss drug Qsymia is no match for Lap Band, gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy

Weight loss pills are not as effective as Lap Band, gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy

The Food and Drug Administration has approved another weight loss drug no less than 30 days after approving Belviq (locaserin) in late June. These two drugs have a lot of overweight and obese people waiting impatiently to get their hands on these “magic” pills that are said to help “burn away the pounds.” While medications to assist with weight loss have a place in some weight loss programs, there is no such thing as a magic pill for weight loss and people looking forward to effortless, fast weight loss with these new medications will most likely be disappointed.

Vivus Inc.’s Qsymia was approved by the FDA for prescription use in obese adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher and overweight adults with a BMI of 27 or higher who also have at least one existing weight-related issue such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Bariatric surgery patients should know that the benefits of this weight loss drug are short-lived at best and are no match for the long-term benefits that bariatric surgery procedures provide.

Here’s What You Should Know about Qsymia

  • Qsymia works by controlling appetite. Specifically, Qsymia is a combination of two drugs: phentermine and topiramate. Phentermine is an existing drug that functions as an appetite -suppressing stimulant that has been available for years for short-term weight loss. Topiramate is anti-seizure medication used to treat epilepsy that happens to also make people feel fuller after eating. Vivus Inc. researchers claim that Qsymia is designed to target multiple pathways that trigger overeating.
  • Qsymia’s effectiveness is limited. Vivus Inc. submitted clinical studies to the FDA, stating that overweight and obese patients who took Qsymia for one year on average lost 6.7 percent of body weight when taking a middle dose and 8.9 percent when taking a higher dose of the drug. What’s more, most the patients’ weight loss occurred during the first three months of their trials with Qsymia. With this pattern, the FDA recommends that people who do not see at least a three percent reduction in body weight within the first three months discontinue using Qsymia, as they’re unlikely to lose significant weight with further use.

For the “best” results, doctors advise patients to supplement Qsymia with healthy diet and a regular exercise program. Despite these weight loss results, Qsymia may still not be enough to help those who are morbidly obese lose enough weight to reduce their risks of obesity-related illnesses.

Qsymia’s results seem bleak when compared to the long-term expected results of bariatric surgeries.

  • Over 18 months, gastric bypass patients may lose 65 to 80 percent of excess weight
  • Over two years, gastric band patients may lose 50 percent of excess weight
  • In the first six to 12 months, sleeve gastrectomy patients may lose 30 to 50 percent excess weight

Qsymia is not for everyone and poses several risks. Qsymia is not recommended for use in patients with hyperthyroidism, glaucoma or those who have recently had a stroke or suffer from unstable heart disease. Qsymia’s effects on heart rate in high risk patients for heart attack or stroke are still unknown. For all Qsymia patients, regular monitoring of heart rate is especially recommended when starting use or increasing dosage.

In addition to potential heart problems, Qsymia contains an ingredient that has previously been linked to birth defects such as cleft lip and palate in the infants of women who take the drug during pregnancy. Women of child-bearing age seeking treatment with Qsymia must test negative for pregnancy before starting the drug. Other side-effects of Qsymia include dizziness, altered taste, insomnia, constipation, dry mouth and tingling in the hands and feet.

Regardless of the FDA’s approval, this new drug is not the only viable answer to weight loss. While Qsymia may help some to lose weight, the drug alone may not be enough to help the majority of obese and overweight people lose enough weight to decrease their risk of life-threatening comorbid conditions. For some, bariatric surgery is still the best solution for long-term weight loss results. Though the decision is ultimately yours, your bariatric surgeon in Naples and Fort Myers can help you determine what’s best for you.