But problems could still occur, considering that patients with existing mental health issues are often excluded from obesity drug trials, so side effects not seen in trials could emerge when this population uses the medication. Such a situation may have occurred in 2007, when Sanofi-Aventis hailed Rimonabant, another neurotargeted drug, as a safe and effective weight-loss treatment. “The press releases looked great,” Greenway remembers. Shortly after the drug was released in Europe, however, reports of Rimonabant-related suicides began trickling in. The drug was never approved in the U.S. and was later recalled in Europe.
As a result, the FDA will likely view the new antiobesity drugs with caution. In July an FDA advisory panel narrowly voted against Qnexa, citing concerns over side effects. The FDA is not required to act on the panel’s recommendation, though.
Ed J. Hendricks, a physician who runs a weight-loss center in Sacramento, Calif., hopes at least one of the three drugs will be approved. “As the pathways behind obesity are better understood, the drugs are getting more specific,” he says. The question is whether they will act specifically enough and prove safe for wide use.
This article was originally published with the title Fat Attack.