by Jeff Clemetson, Editor
Wednesday’s FDA advisory panel decision to recommend the weight loss drug Qnexa for approval sounds like good news to many Americans who battle obesity, an epidemic that has now taken 35 percent of us and adds billions of dollars to our overburdened health care system. Weight loss drugs have been one of the Holy Grails of the pharmaceutical industry for years – the idea that if a perfect drug can be made to magically loose weight, profits would be heavenly. According to the 22 to 2 overwhelming vote by the FDA advisory panel, Qnexa might be that drug.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as magic. While the board recommended the drug for approval, they also noted that the drug could lead to severe side effects, such as heart problems and birth defects. Obesity, they argued, is too great a problem to let this drug slip by just because some kids might be born with a cleft lip or some folks may have heart attacks.
I sincerely wish I could believe that the FDA advisory board truly had our interest at heart (yes, a pun). However, in light of the FDA’s penchant for hiring Big Pharm employees, both past and future, I am skeptical.I fear that approval has more to do with adding a boost to corporate profits than it does about treating obesity.
Here at Health and Fitness Talk, we believe in having an open mind about drug treatments – that we can be a natural health advocate while also exploring the best of what pharmaceutical drugs can do for you to improve your health. For example, we support hormone replacement therapy for aging adults because it has proven to be a safe way to reduce the effects of aging.
Weight loss drugs, however, are a different story. Unlike the effects of aging, obesity is not something that is unavoidable. With the exception of a slim segment of the obese that are affected by pituitary issues that effect metabolism or a psychiatric condition that forces them to keep eating, obesity is caused by poor diet and exercise habits. The most common trait among the obese is a diet of poor quality food and an existence without regular exercise. The flip side is also true. The common trait among the non-obese is a diet of fresh, healthy foods and regular exercise.
Once again, it seems, the FDA is going to approve a drug that masks a symptom without addressing the cause. Drugs like these make huge windfall profits for drug companies because they never cure the disease and hook the user to them to fight unwanted symptoms. In the case of weight loss drugs, it will have an even greater effect. People are obese because they have fallen into bad habits – they are too comfortable to change them. The idea of taking a pill to fix the problem compounds an already too complacent attitude to change their lifestyles. And when you add the risk of side effects like heart problems and birth defects to a health issue that can be fixed without drugs, you get a health problem created by a cure that doesn’t treat the root causes of a disease.
If the FDA truly had curing obesity in its sights, it would have started with banning unhealthy foods that contain addictive chemicals and zero nutritional value. Instead, we get a magic pill made from amphetamines and antiseizure medications.