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New Weight Loss Medication FDA-Approved

Debra Gordon

Last updated: October 20, 2016 7:35 pm

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How many times have you said to yourself, “I wish there was a pill I could take to lose weight.” Well, guess what? There is. Three to be exact, with the newest weight-loss prescription drug, Contrave, FDA approved just last month. The other two, Qsymia (phentermine and topiramate) and Belviq (lorcaserin), were approved in 2012.

Contrave and Other Weight Loss Drugs

Contrave is a combination of the antidepressant Wellbutrin (bupropion), which is also approved for smoking cessation, and the anti-addiction drug, naltrexone. The drug reduces your appetite (always an important component for weight loss!), likely through its actions on various hunger-related neurotransmitters and hormones.

One difference between Contrave and its weight-loss cousins is that it is also approved for people who are not obese but who are overweight and have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. In addition, unlike Qsymia and Belviq, it is that it is not considered a controlled substance. That means its easier for your doctor prescribe it and give you samples.

All three weight-loss drugs are designed to be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise.

Weight Loss Expectations

Don’t expect to lose a ton of weight on any of these medications, however. Four, one-year studies of Contrave in about 4,500 people, for instance, found that those taking the drug and making lifestyle changes lost between 5 and 10 percent of their starting weight. That compares to an average weight loss of about 9 percent with Qsymia and 3 percent with Belviq. All however, lost significantly more than a placebo group who only focused on lifestyle changes. Participants who stuck with Contrave also kept the weight off during the yearlong studies.

Five percent might not sound a lot; but losing even that small amount can reduce your risk for weight-related conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

You take Contrave in a stepped approach: one table in the morning the first week; one in the morning and evening the second week; two in the morning and one in the evening the third week; then two in the morning and two in the evening thereafter.

Contrave Side Effects

Rare but potential serious side effects from Contrave include suicidal thoughts or actions, seizures, liver damage, manic episodes, visual problems, and an increased risk of low blood sugar in people who take certain diabetes drugs. The most common side effects include nausea, constipation, headache, vomiting, dizziness, trouble sleeping, dry mouth, and diarrhea.

You shouldn’t take Contrave if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure or a seizure disorder, suffer from anorexia or bulimia; are dependent on opioids or trying to break that dependency; are taking other drugs that contain bupropion; or are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

Serious side effects with Qsymia include increased heart rate, suicidal thoughts or actions, and serious eye problems. Those for Belviq include heart problems, suicidal thoughts, decreased red and white blood cell counts, and painful erections.

As always, contact your doctor if you experience these or any other side effects from these (or any other) medications.