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Weight Loss Pill Could Battle Heart Disease

Posted April 1, 2008
Updated April 2, 2008

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— Researchers are studying the possibility that a weight-loss drug could help forestall heart disease.

In a clinical trial, 839 patients with abdominal obesity and a history of heart disease either took the weight-loss drug Rimonabant or a placebo for 18 months.

“In the coronaries, we saw less buildup of plaque in the patients that got the drug for one of the two measures of plaque that we performed in the study,” said Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic

Other health benefits included weight loss and improved "good" cholesterol levels.

As for diabetics in the study, Nissen said the drug helped improve their “diabetic control to some extent.”

Joseph Novak, who has a weight problem and heart disease, participated in the study. Two years ago, Novak had a stent procedure to open clogged arteries in his heart. The clogged arteries were found after Novak fainted during a stress test.

Novak claims that since joining the trial, he has “more energy.”

Though it is unknown if Novak received the actual drug or the placebo, he believes he got the weight-loss drug because of his results. He lost 20 pounds – and his doctors say his heart arteries even look better.

The study results appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers hoped to see less plaque buildup in the coronary arteries, but they believe that might require longer use of the drug.

Obesity is a major risk factor of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States.

The drug is currently approved only for use outside of the United States. Side effects include increased anxiety and depression.

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  • Snakebite Survivor Apr 4, 2008

    If the FDA approves this, the outcome is drearily predictable, namely a repeat of the fiascos we saw with Fen-phen, Vioxx, Vytorin, etc., etc.: (1) a barrage of TV ads (2) patients demand the drug (3) busy doctors prescribe it without much concern for side effects (4) an epidemic of suicides (5) the drug is recalled, leaving the FDA with egg on its face. The drug is approved in Europe, but it's much less dangerous there, since Europe doesn't have direct-to-consumer drug advertising.

  • Snakebite Survivor Apr 4, 2008

    This article sounds like a press release from the drug's maker, but a quick search of news.google.com and wikipedia gives a much less optimistic impression. Rimonabant is a "cannabinoid receptor antagonist", which is a fancy way of saying that it's a drug with the opposite effect of marijuana. The theory is that if smoking pot gives you the "munchies", taking this drug will give you the "anti-munchies". It does seem to be an effective weight-loss agent, but the side effects are distressing, to say the least: "severe depression is frequent" (no wonder... if smoking pot gets you "high", taking this is likely to get you "low"). And since the drug operates on the cental nervous system, there are worrisome implications for Parkinsonism and related diseases. Also, recent studies don't support the hoped-for positive effects on arteries.

  • CestLaVie Apr 3, 2008

    No, pills are not a long-term solution. VERY old-fashioned methods such as diet & exercise ARE, BUT they take effort. Generally, Americans are lazy & habit-prone to it, & would rather JUST take a pill for about anything. I'm surprised a pill hasn't been invented to simulate exercise & it's benefits for the body. Somebody's probably working on it-just think of the profits involved!!

    I agree with you about impurities in the body & the nation's food supply. Look how long it took to get transfats removed from foods after proven to be lethal. The food industry has a lot of power & advertising funds to sway millions who do NOT think for themselves & realize what's going on - you know, herd mentality.

    I think nutritional cleansing is not an accepted option for millions either because it is controversial & relatively unknown & deals with bodily functions not easily discussed. Look how long it took for chiropractic, acupuncture & vegetarianism to be accepted.

  • purplerado Apr 2, 2008

    Another weight loss pill? Great. When will they learn that the underlying causes of obesity are impurities in the body and a food supply that is nutritionally bankrupt and filled with all kinds of unnatural things that promote weight retention. The NC Medical Board's position on treating obesity is that diet and exercise are the cornerstones of treating obesity and that pills should only be given if the benefits outweigh the risks. Pills are not an acceptable long term solution, and who knows what the risks really are? The best way to lose weight quickly and safely ever devised is nutritional cleansing - replenish the body with concentrated nutrients while eliminating the toxins. It works, so why isn't it used more?