Fat Pill - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Fat Pill

The big buzz word in the weight-loss community is Acomplia. It's the latest pill that researchers hope will help you slim down, stop smoking and more. Acomplia is not available yet but many dieters are expecting it to be the "magic bullet" that will help them shed those pounds without the pain. But I found that, even if it is approved, it may not be the miracle drug for everyone.

Doctors call obesity an epidemic responsible for 300,000 deaths every year. Obesity, they say, leads to high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, sleep apnea, stomach and heart problems.

Dr. Daisy Merey\Weight Loss Specialist: "There is not an organ that is not affected by the dire consequences of obesity."

Dr. Daisy Merey should know. She specializes in weight loss. Patients come to her after years of bulking up on super-sized meals loaded with calories and fat.

Dr. Daisy Merey\Weight Loss Specialist: "Food is our major comfort, friend, lover, and it's always available for us--and that's the biggest problem."

Arlene Ambrose lost 70 pounds under Dr. Merey's supervision. She's proud of her loss, but like many of us wishes it could have been easier.

Arlene Ambrose\Lost 70 Pounds: "You'd think in this day and age, there would be a magic pill.. Something that would take away your appetite and take away your desire to eat."

And that's the ammunition that drug makers have been trying to develop for years. The latest weapon in the arsenal against obesity is called Acomplia. It's currently being tested on 13,000 patients and awaiting FDA approval. Yet it might not work any better than this skinny mirror.

Dr. Daisy Merey\Weight Loss Specialist: "There are some people, a fair number of people, that when they take marijuana, they have an increased appetite. So this would decrease the appetite of those who are sensitive to this particular type of drug."

That's why Acomplia is sometimes referred to as the "anti-marijuana" drug. And those receptors in the brain also control cravings for nicotine, alcohol and other drugs, suggesting that it could also be used to treat those addictions.

But it's weight loss that's getting the biggest buzz. Rudy Smith is a Rose landscaper. He lost 65 pounds without a magic pill.

Rudy Smith\Lost 65 Pounds: "I don't believe there's anybody who's overweight who could say they're happy and be telling the truth."

And that may explain why people are anxious to get their hands on Acomplia.

Dr. Daisy Merey\Weight Loss Specialist: "Acomplia does work on a modest level. People who had been on Acomplia for 2 years had lost 14 pounds."

But half of the subjects in the earlier clinical studies dropped out because of side effects like nausea, anxiety and mild depression.

Dr. Daisy Merey\Weight Loss Specialist: "I see it as one extra tool in my toolbox. It might work on some people and not on others.. But we have a lot of other medications available."

The results of the current study of 13,000 participants should be available next month. Then the FDA will have to determine if it is safe and effective before giving its approval. The drug maker is also investigating whether Acomplia will help lower cholesterol. But Doctor Merey told me that losing weight, itself, will improve cholesterol levels--with or without Acomplia.

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