Hot on the heels of the first obesity drug approval in USA in 13 years just a few weeks ago, the American FDA has now also approved a new combination drug for the treatment obesity.

Dubbed ‘Qsymia’, it is a combination of two medications:  an extended release version of topiramate (which is currently used to treat seizure disorders and to prevent migraines), and a stimulant agent called phentermine, which was already in use for short term weight loss in the United States.

The studies that have been done have shown that this combination treatment for obesity results in an average of 6.7% weight loss after one year on the lower dose, and 8.9% weight loss after one year on the higher dose.   These numbers are more impressive than the recently improved lorcaserin, which results in a one year weight loss of just under 4% (though the two agents have not been studied head-to-head).

There are several important considerations in terms of potential side effects of Qsymia.  It can increase heart rate, and should therefore not be used by people who have unstable heart disease, or who have had a heart attack or stroke in the last 6 months.  It can also cause harm to a fetus, so it’s essential that pregnancy is strictly avoided while using this medication.  There are other issues as well – you can read about these on the FDA website.  

As always, it’s about assessing the benefit versus the risk of any medication, as a team of patient and doctor, to decide what the best treatment approach is. 

Perhaps the most exciting thing about this approval is that the tides are finally turning in the world of obesity – medications are finally starting to become available in an area where there is such desperate need.  Having a variety of agents available will improve our ability to find the best treatment approach for each individual.

Dr Sue Pedersen © 2012

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