Following our previous blog on obesity, and in support of World Obesity Awareness Week (October 15−19), we put the spotlight on the pharmacological interventions that are emerging as a result of the U.S Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) willingness to consider drugs as a way to treat obesity.

In the past, emphasis has been placed on making lifestyle and behavioral changes in order to fight obesity. The main problem with this is that obese people do not process food the same way thinner people do. In the fight against obesity maintaining a high level of determination and willingness to make changes for a better, healthier lifestyle are often hard to maintain. Many times individuals make dietary changes and increase their amount of physical activity and only see slight improvements, if any at all. This is where drugs factor in.

The combination of exercise, diet changes, and drug therapy may result in more significant results for obese individuals.1 People who are obese are often fighting their own physiology; their bodies are processing and overproducing fat molecules in the liver and then storing them in the body’s fat cells.1 Drug therapy can help inhibit this fat storage therefore decreasing an individual’s weight.

There is a great deal of risk involved with the development of drug therapies for obesity. Belviq from Arena Pharmaceuticals and Eisai Co. and Qsymia from Vivus Inc. are two of the most recently approved drugs on the market for obesity. Several other products are in development, including Novo Nordisk’s liraglutide and Amylin’s Symlin (pramlintide). Previous weight loss drugs were plagued with a slew of negative side effects, but there is hope that these new drugs will have a better side effect profile, allowing patients to lose more weight than through exercise and dieting alone.

The future is bright for companies capable of developing weight loss drugs without major side effects.

Josephine Di Laura