Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Alli / Orlistat linked to kidney, pancreas damage

GlaxoSmithKline has announced it's dropping the OTC version of Orlistat i.e. Alli, a diet drug from those drugs they sell. Ironically this announcement came after a study found a link between this drug and kidney damage as well as several cases of pancreatitis (last year the FDA warned of a possibility of liver toxicity from Orlistat):

The study reporting adverse effects of kidney and pancreas damage in a percentage of those using Orlistat or Alli

Cite: Weir MA, Beyea MM, Gomes T, et al. Orlistat and acute kidney injury: An analysis of 953 patients. Arch Intern Med 2011; 171:703-704. Abstract

New diet drug, Qnexa a breakthrough? NOT!

Interestingly enough, the news article in many news services including the NY Times, suggesting a "new breakthrough" in obesity drugs, appeared recently - cheerleading a drug which was not approved by the FDA - what's going on?

First of all, it's true that those on a combination of the drugs - topamax and phentermine (i.e. the "PHEN" of the somewhat risky potion - Phen-Fen) lost more weight than those on either one of those drugs or those on placebos (no drugs).

However, the most weight lost on the highest dose of the two drugs, Topamax - a drug used in lower doses for migraine control and Phentermine, was 18 lbs over a period of a year and a month (56 weeks). In other words, that's less than 1/2 lb a week! You can actually lose more weight with a Richard Simmons exercise program and no diet! And without endangering your health with a drug which already has been suspected to cause heart problems and another drug about which people have complained bitterly of the psycho- side effects including dizziness and brain fog!

Not surprising, the studies concluded that the difference in weight loss between those on the drugs and those in the placebo group (the latter lost 5% of their weight), was "of nominal statistical significance". Not exactly earth shaking as the news story would like us to believe, is it!

Furthermore according to an article in the LA Times, this is one of the studies done for FDA approval (which has not been given at this time) and not a new study!

And finally, predictably, it was funded by Vivus, the pharmaceutical which is trying to market the drug.

Notice the little plug about diabetes in the article - diabetics seem the new target group. Using old statistics about diabetic repercussions (like what people in the 1960's before modern medications sometimes suffered), these groups are scaring people with diabetes into drastic and sometimes unsafe solutions.

In a society which allows pharmaceutical companies to advertise risky drugs on the open market, the consumer must be very careful - a wrong decision in buying such a drug might result in a lifetime devastation of one's health - as those who trustingly took Phen-Fen can attest to.