A team of doctors from Austin Hospital in Melbourne have found that a combination of two drugs can cause weight loss in severely obese patients. The two drugs in question are the appetite suppressant phentermine and the epilepsy drug topiramate. What is worrying is that they state that patients can be prescribed this concoction “but only if they can tolerate side-effects including depression, heart palpitations and insomnia”. I know people will argue that ‘if it gets people started with weight loss that is fine’ but we’ve been down this route before, and it wasn’t fine.
Weight loss drugs and safety?
Years ago we had fenfluramine and phentermine or as it was known at the time ‘Fen-Phen’ this caused strokes and heart attacks and actually killed a number of people before it was withdrawn. At the time it was hailed as the wonder cure and a lot of the problems were initially covered up. We surely do not need to go down this route again. The new combination appears to have a number of similar side effects, namely: depression, heart palpitations and insomnia. What is more, subjects in the study also reported tingling, burning or prickling skin sensations and headaches. It might initially be solving one problem but it seems to me it is introducing a whole group of new problems. People who are obese often suffer with depression and mood swings that cause their over-eating so this can’t be a positive. The other issue that doesn’t appear to be addressed is this type of weight loss is not a lifestyle change. It was the individual’s lifestyle that caused them to gain the weight in the first place. Weight loss that doesn’t address the root cause seems a bit pointless as you are setting someone up for ultimate failure.
We are investing research money into drugs that seem to produce as many issues as they solve and that ultimately are not a long-term answer. Obesity surgery is costly and is not even feasible to offer to most people. Surely a lot more effort should be spent researching how to achieve long-term lifestyle changes to a produce weight loss and furthermore how to prevent people gaining weight in the first place. Medical researchers are so blinkered by a culture that dictates pills and potions are the answer that the obvious answer is often overlooked; this is partly because you can’t sell lifestyle change to the pharmacology industry. What is more the pharmacology industry won’t sponsor this type of research as they would be out of business.
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