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Health Team

Weight Loss Pill Could Battle Heart Disease

Posted April 1, 2008 5:03 p.m. EDT
Updated April 2, 2008 10:12 a.m. EDT

— 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.