From the New York Times: “A federal advisory panel on Wednesday overwhelmingly recommend approval of what could become the first new prescription drug to treat obesity in 13 years. The advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted 20 to 2 that the benefits from the weight loss provided by the drug, Qnexa, more than offset the potential risks of heart problems and birth defects.”
Qnexa is a combination of two existing drugs — the stimulant phentermine, which was the surviving part of the fen-phen combination, and the epilepsy and migraine drug topiramate, also known by the brand name Topamax. If you google around, you’ll get all sorts of details about the effectiveness in trials and the dangers.
I have had clients who have used these drugs. Sometimes they have helped, modestly. Sometimes they have done no good. I’ve also had clients who have had the bariatric surgery, only with surgery, the dangers were greater, and the negatives were assured, not just possibilities.
As an obesity treatment expert, let me emphasize that weight loss cannot be achieved without behavior change, establishing habits that result in eating fewer calories than used. If a medication can help a person to do this, without adverse risk, I am all for it. The prospect of an effective medication that would make it easier to actualize healthy behavior is much better than surgery, though I encourage the surgery if it is the only way to sustain life, and time has run out.
As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with a lifetime of treating mental disorders, let me make it clear that an array of thought and behavior disorders are affected by disorder in brain chemistry, and the effective treatment is medication. Good examples are depression and OCD, a relative of compulsive overeating. Treatment with medication alters the brain chemistry to relieve depression and OCD symptoms. We know that medications can reduce appetite and eating compulsions. Are drugs the solution to obesity? No. Behavior change is. But in some cases, drugs help, and in some cases, it seems behavior change is not possible without drugs.
Let’s not forget that the solution to obesity is in behavior change. Sometimes, drugs can help, but drugs can only be a part of the answer. Most of the time, drugs play no part. Always, the answer is in Behavioral Medicine.
When I was young and obese, out of control and in the dark about how to solve my problem, I would have jumped at the chance of one of these miracle cures. I am so glad that I learned the real solution and lost not only the 140 pounds, but the risk and danger of these false promises. If you are overweight and hoping for a drug that will help with the problem, I am with you for that. But don’t wait to learn what you can do in regards to other Behavior Medicine technology to make the changes you’ll need to make. You’ll need to learn them anyway, even if a drug comes along that really works. Why not learn it now? You may find that you’ve solved the problem before a foolproof drug appears, which may or may not happen.