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The Next Generation of Weight-Loss Drugs

Pharmaceutical companies are trying to develop diabetes products that do not promote weight gain. As is, several diabetes drugs have been implicated in inducing weight gain – sulfonylureas (such as glimepiride), thiazolidinediones (such as Actos and Avandia), and insulins (although recent insulin analogs greatly reduce the amount of weight gained compared to older insulins). Unfortunately, weight loss drugs have primarily been viewed as cosmetic therapies and have never played a major role in health care; the available drugs also have marginal effects on weight loss (comparable to exercise) and certain unfavorable side effects. However, three companies are in the midst of submitting applications for their new generation of weight-loss drugs to the FDA. The drugs are Qnexa developed by Vivus, Contrave developed by Orexigen, and lorcaserin developed by Arena. We highlight them because they have all been studied in diabetes patients and been shown to have, in certain cases, a dramatic effects on weight loss (7% to 14% weight loss) and a significant reduction in important glucose measures such as the A1c. However, these drugs must still go through a rigorous regulatory process before being approved; if they are, we expect them to reach physician’s offices in 2011 or 2012, so stay tuned…

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