It’s national heart health month and that means that every diet and weight loss company is trying to incorporate heart health into their ads. Except the folks over at Vivus pharmaceuticals who say “screw your heart, buy our drug”.
Qnexa, a weight loss drug produced by Vivus, was rejected by the FDA in 2010 because of it’s pesky tendency to cause side effects like elevated heart rate that may lead to severe cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks and arrhythmias, birth defects, psychiatric problems, kidney stones, decreased bone mineral density and memory impairment.
Today an FDA panel voted to recommend that the full FDA approve THE SAME DRUG which has THE SAME SIDE EFFECTS. The drug is made up of a combination of Topmax – an anti-seizure/anti-migraine drug that is supposed to make people feel “satiated” while it’s partner drug, and phentermine suppresses appetite. If Pentermine sounds familiar you’re not alone – it was half of the drug combination Fen-Phen, that was linked to heart valve problems. People died.
So what would make this panel decide that te drug is suddenly safe enough? It would seem that most of the subjects lost 10% of their body weight while on the drug. What the panel does not seem to care about is what happens when patients go off the drug, and what are the weight regain rates, not to mention those side effects we already chatted about.
Apparently they were swayed by testimony from people like Dr. Arya Sharma, who is a paid consultant to Vivus (you know, the company that manufactures and hopes to sell and profit wildly from this drug…). Dr. Sharma said “Back in medical school, I was taught that when the risk of not treating the condition exceeds the risk of treating it, we should treat. We have an obligation to change how we measure obesity. Qnexa addresses an urgent and substantial unmet medical need for our patients.”
I call bullshit Dr. Sharma. First of all, losing 10% of your body weight is possible with a variety of interventions for many people – the problem is that almost all of them gain that weight back, plus more in 2-5 years. So we’re risking all those side effects for an intervention that is likely to last less than 2 years? Also, weight loss is not really an appropriate treatment protocol since fat is not a diagnosis. It’s a descriptor. Obesity is not a disease, it’s a ratio of weight and height. There are perfectly healthy obese people (and very unhealthy thin people). Also, for many obese people, losing 10% of their body weight doesn’t actually move them out of the obese category so by Dr. Sharma’s your own logic (with which I disagree) their risk factors are the same as they were before, except now their risk factors include the risk of side effects from a weight loss drug, and from the yo-yo dieting that they are likely to experience.
There are no “fat people diseases”, thin people get all the same diseases that fat people get and there are behavior-based treatment protocols for all of these diseases that have nothing to do with weight loss.
Since we already know how to make people healthier (adding healthy foods and moving about 30 minutes a day about 5 days a week), and we have behavior based treatment protocols for every disease that do not involved weight loss, there’s no reason to put anyone at this much risk for what is not only little benefit, but also possible harm. And it doesn’t matter how much money Dr. Sharma is paid to say otherwise, or how much money Vivus will make if the FDA approves the drug,
But here’s the thing. Even if the FDA approves this drug, we don’t have to buy it. Some analysts have said that the drug company will have 10 million customers when it comes out. That only happens if 10 million of us buy the drug. If none of us buy the drug, it goes over like a lead balloon and we’ve made them irrelevant, and the drug company wasted all of the money they spent buying the testimony of doctors. We can take this into our own hands and refuse to risk our health for someone else’s profit. The bully only gets our lunch money if we give it him. It’s time to stand up and say no.
The situation that Dr. Sharma is in is EXACTLY why my work is supported by my readers rather than corporate ads. If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution. The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. Thanks for reading! ~Ragen