Stephanie Saul on Weight Loss Drugs
In this audio clip New York Times reporter Stephanie Saul discusses the drug industry's attempt to combat obesity—with pills. The report declares the desperately obese as "a large market going forward." I'm not sure if this is a pun, a marketing strategy, or both.
The report mentions two drugs, Xenical and Meridia. In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman explains why these drugs are poor alternatives to nutritional excellence:
Remember: for anything to be effective, you have to be on it forever. Even if the drugs were remarkably effective, you would have to be prepared to stay on them forever, the minute you stopped, the benefits would slowly be lost. In the long run, it is still your diet that determines your health and your weight. The amphetamine-related appetite suppressants have received much press, and they were quite popular until their dangers became more well known. They were never approved for long-term use, so it wasn't very wise for people to use them.
The two FDA-approved drugs for weight reduction are Meridia (sibutramine) and Xenical (orlistate). Meridia can cause headache, insomnia, constipation, dry mouth, and hypertension and is only slightly helpful.1 Xenical, the fat inhibitor, can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea, and reduces absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins such as D, E, and K. It may help those who consume an unhealthful, fatty diet, but even then it is hardly worth the side effects. Overall, drugs are drugs—they are a poor substitute for healthy living.
1. Lean, M.E. J. 1997. Sibutramine: a review of clinical efficacy. Int. J. Obes. Relat. Metab. Disord. 21 (supp. 1): S30-36.