New research has shown that a powerful new weight loss drug originally developed to treat brain diseases is twice as effective as the best existing anti-obesity medicines.
Tesofensine targets neurosignalling chemicals in the brain to suppress hunger and prevent overeating.
It was being tested as a treatment for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease when its potential for fighting obesity was discovered, with doctors observing that obese patients given the drug began to lose weight.
In the new study in Denmark - which has been published in The Lancet - 161 obese patients each weighing an average of around 16 stone were given tesofensine, in varying doses, or an inactive placebo.
The amount of weight the tesofensine group shed was at least double what could have been achieved with the currently available antiobesity drugs Reductil (sibutramine) and Acomplia (rimonabant).
Obesity expert, Professor Steve O'Rahilly from Cambridge University, said: "If we could treat obesity like we treat high blood pressure, with safe, effective and affordable drugs, this would be an enormous boon to health care.
"However, as the drug is likely to have actions on parts of the brain not involved in weight control, the risk of serious side-effects on longer term administration will need to be watched very carefully."
"It must be part of a package – lifestyle, activity, food types – a cognitive behavioural therapyapproach works well. You also need nurses and GPs to take the issueseriously and give it the time needed. Someone with a special interestin obesity, and time and empathy are vital. That person also needs totake a firm but helpful approach." - Olivia Neely, Midlands "I think it has a place, it is often wrongly used by patients believing that taking a pill is all they have to do. Without diet and exercise it is a waste of NHS money." - Carl Curtis