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The Newest Weight-Loss Drug: Does it Really Work?

Last month the FDA approved another drug for weight loss, known as Contrave, made by Orexigen Therapeutics Inc.  Because of the many hopes that are raised when these products are approved, I couldn’t let this pass without a few comments.

Contrave, which is actually a combination of two other drugs (one used to treat addictions and the other depression), was first rejected by the FDA in 2011 over concerns of heart attacks and other cardiovascular risks.  It is now approved.  But like any drug, side-effects are to be expected.  In this case, a few of the known possible side-effects are suicidal behavior and ideation, seizures, liver dysfunction, glaucoma, nausea, and vomiting.  Now, before you dismiss it entirely, the benefits of a drug should always be compared with the risks.

So, how successful is this drug? WebMD cites:

In clinical trials that studied more than 4,500 people, the drug helped people keep off weight for up to a year, the length of the studies, according to Orexigen. On average, those who took Contrave for 6 months and combined it with a weight-management program lost 25 pounds, the company says in a statement. Those who were on placebo and the weight-management program averaged a 17-pound loss.

According to this large study, those who were physically active watched what they ate, and also took Contrave, lost 25 pounds in 6 months (˜ 4 lbs/month).    Those who tried to lose weight without the drug lost 17 lbs in 6 months (˜ 3 lbs/month).  So what role did Contrave actually play?  Perhaps contributing to 8 lbs. over a 6-month time period.

If this study is indicative of the actual benefits, then the upside is that it can possibly help.  Do the benefits outweigh the side-effects and cost?  That’s for you to decide.  The actual cost of Contrave is not yet known but is estimated to be around $200/month.

Personally, my biggest concern is not that people will buy and use Contrave, it’s that they will do so without also being physically active and eating healthy.  This is, after all, what our country is searching for, an effortless “cure”.  If such a remedy is ever to be found, it has yet to be discovered (Contrave included).  But if it is, I will be all for it – there is no doubt that medical innovation has already given us astounding advances in health care.  Whether it can do so with our weight loss, remains to be seen.

As with the other weight loss pills, time will tell, and it usually tells us what we’ve known all along: There is no substitute for a healthy lifestyle. For more information on Contrave, WebMD is a helpful resource

CHI Health Weight Management Team
CHI Health Weight Management Team

These blogs were written by the CHI Health Weight Management Team.

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