FDA Approves The Second Weight Loss Pill Within A Month And Our Nation's Pill Dependency Continues Chrissa Hardy

Americans have become too hungry. As a nation, we’re hungry for many things, food and instant results being two of the big boys. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 Americans has the body mass index to be classified as obese. This is a problem. We know this is a problem. The FDA has decided that it’s time for them to step in and be part of the solution, by approving the second weight loss pill within a month. This is great news, right? NO.

Quick fixes almost never lead to long-term results. As with most rehab programs, in order to break free from an addiction, you need to establish the root of the problem that has lead to the addiction. Does popping a pill help you determine your personal triggers? No. Drugs are serious business, people. Just because a doctor has given you the green light to take something doesn’t mean it will a) work, b) be safe and non-addictive or c) be appropriate for  long-term use. What would Jillian Michaels say about this? When Jillian was a trainer on “The Biggest Loser”, she would mesmerize me by her ability to bring the root causes of food addition to the surface, for the contestants to face. It was incredible to watch. She would often say that “people who are truly happy are not morbidly obese. They’re just not.” Unless you have a medical condition that slows your metabolism to zero, if you are obese, you are using food to fill a void. Can that void be filled by popping a pill? I think not.

The pill that will soon be available for America’s popping pleasure is called, Qsymia. In a press announcement made by the FDA, they stated that “Qsymia is a combination of two FDA-approved drugs, phentermine and topiramate, in an extended-release formulation. Phentermine is indicated for short-term weight loss in overweight or obese adults who are exercising and eating a reduced calorie diet. Topiramate is indicated to treat certain types of seizures in people who have epilepsy and to prevent migraine headaches.“Obesity threatens the overall well being of patients and is a major public health concern,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Qsymia, used responsibly in combination with a healthy lifestyle that includes a reduced-calorie diet and exercise, provides another treatment option for chronic weight management in Americans who are obese or are overweight and have at least one weight-related comorbid condition.”

“The safety and efficacy of Qsymia were evaluated in two randomized, placebo-controlled trials that included approximately 3,700 obese and overweight patients with and without significant weight-related conditions treated for one year. All patients received lifestyle modification that consisted of a reduced calorie diet and regular physical activity. The most common side effects of Qsymia are tingling of hands and feet (paresthesia), dizziness, altered taste sensation, insomnia, constipation, and dry mouth.”

The patients in the above study didn’t just take the pill and saw results. They had to exercise and reduce caloric intake too. So, I’m sorry, but why is the pill needed? If the directions on the bottle are basically to “eat less and move more” then why not just do that? These patients might’ve lost slightly more weight with the pill than they would’ve by just dieting and exercising, but is that worth the possible side-effects? How many people will not follow these rules and expect the pill to do all of the work for them? Long-term trials on this product have yet to be conducted. They still need to determine if adverse cardiovascular reactions could occur in patients using this drug. How many people will face cardiac complications?

Image via obesityinamerica.org

 

I’m one of the many Americans struggling with my weight. I’ve been on and off the chub train for as long as I can remember. I’ve taken the quick-fix, drastic measures that I thought would help me “just get to my ideal weight and then everything will be fine.” But guess what? Even if I did reach my ideal size quickly, I shot right back up to my “before” size just as quickly, if not quicker! Sure, I’d have a blast taking pictures and sporting my “goal-size” outfits, but it was all smoke and mirrors. The sadness and self-doubt were still there, they were just hidden by my temporary confidence and my size four Abercrombie jeans (which ALWAYS seem to run small, am I right?). I over-ate when I was stressed, sad, happy (let’s celebrate!) and bored. Sure, it’s super adorable when Liz Lemon does it. I absolutely love her  for making my embarrassing habits seem normal and funny. However, those habits stop being cute after a 20 lb weight gain.

Here’s something else that sucks, you can never take food out of the equation. Drug addicts can slowly work on removing themselves from situations where drugs are present. We NEED food for basic survival. The key is learning your triggers, understanding the reasons behind them and working hard to resist your urges. You will hear nutritionists and fitness trainers say that you can’t think about reaching your ideal weight through dieting. You have to see it as a “lifestyle change” because it’s a process that never ends. You need to see the way you eat as how you’ll eat for the rest of your life. So, don’t set yourself up for failure by creating unrealistic goals. Don’t look for the easy way out. The only way out of this obesity crisis is to head right into the eye of the storm and get people to figure out why they turn to food to fill a void. We don’t need a magic pill. We need more support. We need more guidance. We need to work harder. Most of us are struggling here. Let’s not isolate ourselves in a dark room with a pill bottle and let’s figure this out. Together.

Image via Shutterstock

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  1. I work at a pharmacy and just learned of this new approval not to long ago. Like you, I am very skeptical of the FDA for taking the approach that they seem to be taking. More pharmaceuticals and less good ol’ American Aerobics, circa Richard Simmonds. Although I know that all pharmaceuticals have their pros and cons, I also become very nervous when it comes to weight loss aids.

    Take Alli for example, although not a prescription item, it promises that it will do alot of the work for you by cutting out fat from your diet and basically isolating it as waste. However the problem is that people commonly think is that since a medication is aiding in the removal of fat- why not have that quarter pounder after all? This certainly is not meant to offend those who stick to healthy regimens and use the medication as it is intended. The cold hard truth is, though that they’re aren’t that many committed people who use these drugs wisely. Hence why products such as Alli have to put warnings on their medications that you could lose control of your bowels, having a movement anywhere or anytime without any muscular control to stop it. Just look at all of the people who have permanent incontinence due to other products like Meridia.

    Although I have never had a true battle with weight problems, I do like to appear a certain way and understand that I have to make sacrifices in order to maintain that appearance. The problem with the world, especially the United States. is that everyone has become so accustomed to getting what they want NOW! Instant gratification leads to obesity and in the cases of pharmaceuticals to fix that incessant need, it just isn’t logical.

    Until our nation confronts the multiple causes of obesity, no drug is going to solve the problem. We need to reteach ourselves, and our childern, how to be entertained without spending the entire evening in from of the computer/television. Put the controller down, and back away from your gaming system.

    What happened to home cooked meals and kick the can? Playing outside until the streetlights come on? I know its a different era now, filled with more complexities everyday but lets face it. If it were me, I’d get out there in my neon workout wear and act a fool because I would prefer that over a lifetime of self inflicted incontinence.

    Any effort on anyones part to improve themselves should be applauded, though! We need to become a nation where the Official “Restaurant” of the Olympics isn’t McDonald’s.

  2. Thanks so much for your comments, ladies! Bethany and Mary, I appreciate you sharing your very personal struggles. With this piece, you are certainly the exceptions here. I was mainly referring to the large percentage of people that often take advantage of the fact that there’s a pill you can turn to for anything, rather than putting the work in yourself. Also, the boost in getting someone going on their weight loss journey is great and certainly helpful. I can’t help but wonder though, if those individuals (who just need to lose weight and are not suffering from a serious condition that require them to be on medication) worked a little bit harder and were a little more patient with the process, wouldn’t the glory be that much sweeter in the end? Wouldn’t the hard work feel better and the pain more worthwhile if they could take all the credit instead of sharing the spotlight with a pill in the end? I’m also not sure if the side-effects and risks are worth the temporary boost in the beginning. These are just my thoughts here, and of course there are two sides to every argument and exceptions to every rule. I appreciate the time you took to read my piece! :)

  3. I was put on Phentermine about 2 weeks ago. I have Hashimoto’s ( my immune system is eating my thyroid… at least that’s my understanding.) Diagnosed at 17. My current dr. thinks it has been going on since puberty. Cause that’s when I starting gaining an uncontrollable 20+ pounds per year. Even though I was playing 3 sports a year and eating the very exact thing as my friends. My doctor at the time didn’t think it was weird. He actually called me lazy and fat. and at 12 put me on the diabetes diet.

    I have been fighting a losing fight just to control weight gain and after I saw that I gained over 15 pounds in less than 4 months I kind of flipped at the dr’s office. I wanted to start working out from the start of using phentermine but then got an upper respiratory thing (yay summer colds) In 2 weeks I lost a little over 4 pounds and that is without working out. This just fuels the fire to work out. The medication automatically alters your food habits. Which is why you have to make it a goal to learn what you are eating and how much to eat and think about why you are eating.
    Also, phentermine helps those with A.D.D. Oh my goodness. I can concentrate like nobody’s business.
    This drug is helping me become a functioning person. Because my body doesn’t want to function on it’s own. It is an aide. And one day I will get off it, because I have seen people who are addicted to this. But for now, this is the perfect boost.

  4. I’ve spent the entire summer working on a research project involving this very topic, specifically the final paragraph. Thank you for validating some VERY REAL issues: obesity, addiction and the American love of quick-fixes. Well done, my dear!

  5. As someone who takes medication to survive, has been morbidly obese and taken topiramate, I feel that this is an unfair judgement on people with a weight problem or people who take medications to get through daily life.

    One of the side effects of topiramate is weight loss, although for me that side effect didn’t kick in until I had started losing some weight already (I weighed nearly 300 pounds at age 24). Once I started losing some weight, I was never hungry. At all. But I was also running 4 miles a day and actively trying to not be fat. Sometimes a little extra oomph that jumpstarts your body moving in the right direction is all it takes.

    It doesn’t sound like they are claiming it is a miracle drug, just one that can help improve the efficacy of making a lifestyle change. If it helps someone get out of the woods of obesity faster, what’s the harm? Let it help you make positive progress and reinforce the fact that the lifestyle change is making a difference.

    And if you have never been obese (which this article makes it seem like you haven’t had that kind of battle with your weight), you would have no idea the desperation and depression it causes. I would have done anything to not be fat. And I worked very hard. But the little bonus appetite suppression side effect of the topiramate made it easier to keep to a reduced calorie diet while I was trying to lose weight. And it made me see the effects of what I was doing faster.

    I think completely discounting the drug because it doesn’t fit your ideal is the wrong place to start. Maybe it is time we resist the quick fix. But if science can help hard work be more effective, why rule it out?

  6. I think this article is awesomely written. I completely agree that a pill is not the answer. People making a lifestyle change is the answer. If you can’t make the change for yourself, a pill isn’t going to do it for you. I made a lifestyle change 5 months ago and I have never looked back. The way I live now is the reason I am happy with myself today!