On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel approved a new weight loss pill called Qnexa. The drug is a combination of phentermine and topiramate, which acts as an appetite suppressant and a stimulant. Qnexa does appear to induce weight loss. According to a clinical trial conducted by VIVUS, the company developing the drug, patients who took it lost on average 37 lbs and saw their cardiovascular health improve.
Pills that reduce obesity may be appealing to many people, including those who want or need to lose weight. But there's a simpler, safer solution to this problem: People need to change their diets.
While VIVUS scurries to get the FDA's blessing and get Qnexa to market, study after study has demonstrated that people usually gain weight because their diets are loaded with sugar. When they modify the kinds of foods they eat, they lose weight and experience the same benefits weight loss drugs are supposed to provide. Additionally, this is a better solution because it gets to the root of the obesity problem. Sometimes people genuinely need powerful drugs to treat their illnesses. But people don't gain weight or become diabetic because they haven't taken Qnexa; they suffer those consequences because of their poor diets.
Furthermore, diet changes usually don't carry serious side effects, like birth defects or heart palpitations. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Qnexa will be heavily regulated for precisely this reason. Who can purchase the drug, who uses it, and how it affects them will all have to be carefully monitored.
The FDA experts who approved Qnexa say these are a worthy trade off for the weight loss, but I can't fathom how. The solution to the obesity problem has been staring us in the face for decades now, yet government researchers and anti-obesity advocates seem to avoid it at all costs.