The approval is the first good news that weight-loss drug manufacturers have had this year. Earlier, the FDA ordered Meridia off the market because of an unacceptable risk of stroke and heart attack in patients who took it and had heart conditions already. (It had been sold since 1997.) And advisory panels voted down another drug, lorcaserin, because it caused breast tumors in lab animals, as well as Qnexa, because of the risk of depression and birth defects.
So far, there is only one drug approved for weight loss. Orlistat, which is marketed as Xenical in prescription strength and is over the counter, was approved in 1999.
One panelist told Bloomberg news that the pill wasn’t perfect but was better than having just one choice on the market. “I voted yes for another option,” Melanie Coffin, the patient representative on the panel, told the news organization. “I’m disappointed with the efficacy; it’s very small. It’s not going to be a perfect drug for everyone.”
Billions of dollars are at stake in the weight-loss battle. Sales of Contrave, if it’s approved, could top $1 billion by 2016, Bloomberg reported. Weight is an enormous and costly public-health issue as well: An estimated 67 percent of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and that means increased costs for treating illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Jane Farrell is a senior editor at BettyConfidential.