Real Quick: FDA murders obesity drug research, shows no remorse

By | February 1, 2011

Hey, remember Contrave, the awkwardly-named Gleaming Hope For The Future Of All Diet Drugs? Remember how the FDA advisory panel recommended the FDA approve it in spite of lingering doubts about possible cardiovascular damage, and how we all need our cardiovascular systems in tip-top shape in order to live? Remember how the panelists were pretty candid that they were pushing for approval not because the drug actually worked, but because they were worried that rejecting it would kill obesity drug research? Oh, go read my post on that again, I’ll wait.

Hey, welcome back. It turns out that today the FDA has rejected — yes! rejected! — Contrave, telling Orexigen — the drug’s manufacturer — not to even bother crawling back with flowers and chocolates and a mouth full of apologies until they’ve run a large-scale placebo-controlled study proving that Contrave does not cause heart problems. Given that such a task would take years, it seems like Orexigen won’t be calling on the FDA again anytime soon.

As predicted, this will likely have a chilling effect on any new fat-drug research. In Forbes, Matthew Herper writes: “The field of obesity drugs is effectively dead.”

The clear lesson is that weight-loss medicines simply do not have enough of a benefit to justify any risk โ€“ and that this makes getting them approved just about impossible.


Weight-loss drugs are often appealing to individual investors, who are seduced by the idea of a mass-market pill to help people get skinny. But the fact that lots of people would take a drug to lose weight if one existed does not mean that such a medicine can be invented or approved by regulators. A lack of scientific knowledge, high regulatory hurdles, and the fact that these failures will keep drug companies from investing in new obesity research will probably mean years, if not decades, before another weight-loss drug makes it to market. (Source)

I’ve said it before, but hopefully this time it’ll be awhile before I need to say it again: diet drugs don’t work. The companies that research and manufacture them know it, the FDA knows it, and now you know it too. They don’t work because body size is a complicated issue influenced by a matrix of factors. Given that even drug companies motivated by enormous profits cannot find a drug-based solution, it seems more obvious than ever that weight loss is a convoluted process, if it’s even possible in the long term.

It’s a shame that this realization came too late for the people who have died or suffered permanent heart damage as a result of taking these drugs in the name of improving their health.


vesta44 on February 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm.

Now if they would just do the same thing for WLS, my day would be made. Because WLS kills too many people, and causes too many debilitating complications for the ones it doesn’t kill, and doesn’t work for as many people as those WLSurgeons would have you believe. But since they don’t have to do any studies proving the efficacy of WLS, or the safety of it, outlawing WLS will probably never happen ๐Ÿ™


Miss Kim on February 1, 2011 at 8:03 pm.

Actually, there *are* many efficacy studies on the long term “success” rates of WLS. Some are better than others, and WLS is by no means a “cure all”.

People still need to do the work, but WLS *can* be a useful tool for some. I never cared how I LOOKED and was fine with being large and lusty… but I was sick ALL. THE. TIME. My diabetes was getting harder and harder to manage, and I was put on insulin in addition to oral meds. I tried to eat healthy and move my body, and I was so sick with the diabetes.

In 2007, I had a Duodenal Switch, WLS. My blood sugars were *immediately* normal, and my A1C is 4.5, and I eat all types of foods. Nothing is forbidden, though some foods are less well tolerated on some days. I did my research and DS had the best results for curing diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. It doesn’t always cure those things, but usually helps them. It did for me…. even BEFORE the weight came off. The surgery actually changes HOW my body metabolizes food.

For me, having surgery helped me short circuit the dieting roller coaster, and gave me my health back.

Maybe my comments are ill advised on this site. I fully believe we are all beautiful at every size, and that extreme measures for weight reduction are not called for in many cases. For me it was the right choice and I am VERY grateful this medical intervention was available to me, as my quality of life is significantly improved with my better health and my better mobility.


Liza on February 1, 2011 at 1:27 pm.

Adipose Industries will be devastated. ๐Ÿ™‚


bonewhiteglory on February 2, 2011 at 9:24 am.

haha, at least their product worked ๐Ÿ˜‰

what happened to alli? is it still around? proven to be placebo effect yet? or everybody got tired of oozing fecal matter?


Veronica on February 1, 2011 at 10:04 pm.

It really is a staggering concept when you think about it: Despite the truly massive potential for earnings that lie in a diet pill that actually works, the industry cannot create one. How can anyone take that in, and still think all fat people are fat because of the same, simple reason.


Kath on February 1, 2011 at 10:47 pm.

Another one bites the dust!


wriggles on February 2, 2011 at 9:24 am.

โ€œThe field of obesity drugs is effectively dead.โ€

What field of obesity drugs? There is just one thing and one thing only and that is calorie restriction and that is why these drugs don’t work any more than dieting or it’s euphemisms work they are based on exactly the same principle.

What’s sad about this for me is that this means more people like Miss Kim up there who volunteer for mutilation-also based on exactly the same principle-with gratitude because that is all that’s made available to them.

As Vesta said this just increases the death toll and the suffering of fat people who feel utterly trapped in their various situations and the fact that they will go for this butchery means that is all that will be offered to them and so the cycle of taking all fat bodies so cheaply continues.

I can’t even find the energy to be disgusted anymore its just oh so predictable.


LaLa on February 2, 2011 at 7:10 pm.

I think it’s massively presumptuous to classify Miss Kim’s surgery as ‘mutilation’ and ‘butchery’, when she is clearly happy with her choice and her results.


Willow on February 2, 2011 at 7:43 pm.

@Wriggles – All Miss Kim was saying was that in her case, WLS worked for her. She also said, and I quote, “WLS is by no means a ‘cure all.'” Nonetheless, I see your points. As a fat person in this society, I definitely feel that I’m worth less in other people’s eyes just because of how my body looks. And while WLS worked for Miss Kim, its initial premise wasn’t really about helping people get healthier – it was just a way to get them skinnier, and it is definitely a dangerous route to take. Miss Kim is actually lucky she is doing as well as she reports.

I’m glad diet drugs seem to be on the wane. They are so dangerous and don’t even work.

Blessed be.


Bilt4Cmfrt on February 2, 2011 at 10:57 pm.

Am I hearing this right? Great Big Giant Pharma couldn’t solve obesity? Shocking. Inconceivable.

Not really.

As you eloquently point out “body size is a complicated issue influenced by a matrix of factors.” More simply; Calories in โ‰  Calories out. Or if you prefer, ‘will power does not always trump biology’. The bottom line is that despite Mega-Pharma’s concerted, dedicated, and expensive efforts to find one, there is a distinct possibility that there IS no ‘magic bullet’ for weight loss. There is ONE possibility though. A radical idea that seems so far out-side the box that it might as well be from another store. That idea?

Fat is a natural human state and some people are supposed to be fat.

Crazy, right? Again, not really. Simple, yes. Quite possibly too simple for some people to accept. Which probably means that the search will continue along other lines. Who wants to bet the war on obesity gets prominently inserted into the next stages of gene therapy research? ‘Cause, yah know, it is a War after all.


lilacsigil on February 3, 2011 at 1:20 am.

Then again, depression is also a complex matrix of factors which are not completely understood. So is chronic pain. I couldn’t say there will *never* be an effective weight loss drug that doesn’t kill people, but it’s not in our immediate future. I think it would be great for the small number of people whose health really is affected by their weight, like Miss Kim above, to be able to safely reduce their weight without having to resort to major surgery. I doubt, though, that any such drug would be used appropriately for most people – more likely it would be yet another tool used to bludgeon people into chasing after the illusion of an “acceptable” body, while obscuring all the other issues that affect our perception of bodies. /fat and disabled rant


RedPickle on February 3, 2011 at 2:59 pm.

Ms Kim pointed out that the effects of WLS on her diabetes was not necessarily connected to the loss in weight. There is some evidence that the bariatric type of WLS surgery most common in the US (Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery) can signficantly improve type 2 diabetes before any weight loss , whereas other types of WLS surgery do not. There is research going on to identify what is happening (it seems to be something to do with enzymes secreted in part of the gut that is removed) and maybe one day mimic it without surgical intervention.

The focus on weight loss as the cure obscured what was going on for some time. However this surgery is probably going to be more and more marketed as treatment for diabetes, even for thinner people, that can have weight loss as a side-effect. Does that still count as mutilation?

Not that this makes diet pills any more sensible – unless the runs and heart palpitations are useful side effects for someone. Mind you, if it turned out they cured asthma I’d consider them.


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