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Obesity drug "benefits" challenged

Experts have attacked claims that an anti-obesity drug offers benefits outside those associated with weight loss.

Rimonabant (Acomplia) has been described as the "new wonder slimming drug", with trials showing it helps obese people shed excess pounds.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is currently appraising the drug for use on the NHS.

But experts writing in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB), from the British Medical Journal, have questioned claims by the manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis.

According to the Sanofi-Aventis website, the drug "has a beneficial effect on blood glucose and lipid levels - a more beneficial effect than would be expected from weight loss alone".

Advertisements for the drug have suggested that half of the drug's effects on cardiometabolic risk factors are beyond those expected by weight loss alone.

Cardiometabolic risk relates to factors that can be combined to heighten a person's chance of developing heart disease and/or type 2 diabetes.

These factors include obesity, "bad" cholesterol, fat levels in the blood, high blood pressure and insulin resistance.

But the DTB article said: "It is important to note that rimonabant had no effect on LDL ['bad'] cholesterol and little or no effect on blood pressure."

A Sanofi-Aventis spokeswoman said: "The claim "an estimated 50% of the effects ... on cardiometabolic risk factors are beyond those expected from weight loss alone" is a consistent observation that has been seen in all the phase III clinical trials performed to date."

Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin


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Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"Yes there is too much reliance on drugs and too many quick fix diets in the media.People need to realise that they are in charge of what they put in their mouth!!" - Name and address supplied

"As already mentioned in previous comments medication can provide an easy opt-out for obese individuals who are not psychologically prepared to make lifestyle changes. However I feel there is a place for tablets to boost the efforts of dietary change and so help the wellbeing of the individual" - Name and address supplied

People rely on it as an easy option - Name and address supplied

In my experience no single approach to weight loss  has worked long term for the obese and morbidly obsese patient. I tend to go down the route of getting pts. to identify what are their psycho-social attitude to food and eating, and apply lifestyle changes and medication use in a graded approach to management and in most of my patients that I have been working with in the last year weight loss has been persistent and sustained - D Richards

I don't think there is, in my practice we encourage patients into the lifestyle and weight management programme before going down the drug route with reasonable success - Angela Leach, Wallasey on the Wirral

Patients need to be motivated to lose weight by reducing calorie intake and changing food choices otherwise they are using drugs as as easy option. All of us would like to be able to eat everything and stay thin and healthy. Choices need to be made by the patient - Name and address supplied

Patients seem to think that drug therapy is a miracle cure and put in less effort themselves. The best results seem to be achieved by the commercial slimming clubs - Name and address supplied

We tend to start lifestyle and dietary advice in the first instance with the support of weigh-ins. I don't believe that mediation works without will power and determination on the patient's part anyway - Name and address supplied