FDA Approves New Diet Pill Contrave

Karlene Trudell

A new diet pill will be hitting the market in the U.S. soon. Contrave, only the third obesity treatment to be approved in more than a decade, was approved by the FDA on Wednesday for sale in the United States.

According to the Washington Post, the FDA has approved the pills, combined with diet and exercise, for adults with a body mass index of 30 or greater or 27 or greater if they also suffer from an obesity-related condition such as Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.

The diet pill, made by Orexigen Therapeutics Inc., is a combination of the antidepressant bupropion, used to help people quit smoking or to treat seasonal affective disorders, and a formulation of naltrexone, which is designed to treat alcohol and opiate addiction.

In a clinical trial involving 4500 overweight participants, those given the new diet pills lost from 2% to 5% more weight than those given a placebo.

There is some concern that insurance plans will not cover the new pills as both government and private companies are reluctant to cover Belviq and Qsymia, the last two diet pills approved by the FDA. Their reluctance comes from a lack of confidence in the long-term effectiveness of the pills and the tendency of patients to drop out of treatment. Reuters reports that both the drugs also had troubling adverse effects, such as depression and cardiovascular risks.

Daniel Lang, co-portfolio manager at IRS Investments, said, “For all the obesity drugs that are out there, only 30 to 40 percent of the health maintenance organizations pay for obesity coverage. That speaks to the relative apathy towards obesity as a serious condition.”

Despite the doubts, Wells Fargo analyst Matthew Andrews expects the sales of Contrave in the United States to exceed that of both Belviq and Qsymia over the next two years.

Contrave does have side effects, though. Because it contains an antidepressant, there are the same risks associated with those types of drugs, such as increased suicidal thoughts. The FDA warns that the new diet pill can also cause seizures, as well as raise blood pressure and heart rates. Therefore, it shouldn’t be used by those with a history of seizures or uncontrolled high blood pressure.

The FDA recommends that people taking Contrave be monitored closely and evaluated after three months on the pills. If they haven’t lost at least 5% of their body weight in that time, the drug should be discontinued.

Orexigen plans to market Contrave heavily in the North America and Europe, but has not said when the diet pill will be available or how much it will cost.

If you are planning on trying the new pills, you will need a healthy diet too. Check out this related Inquistr article comparing low-fat and low-carb diets to see which is best for you.

Photo courtesy of Top News NZ