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12 Sep, 2014 10:04

New anti-obesity pill to help curb appetite of 78mn Americans

New anti-obesity pill to help curb appetite of 78mn Americans

US regulators have approved a weight-loss drug called Contrave, the third type of such prescription medication introduced in over 10 years, despite carrying some possible heavy side-effects of its own.

Contrave, which won its official stamp of approval this week from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is being trumpeted as the latest wonder treatment in America’s seemingly endless quest to shed weight.

READ MORE: Junk food gets encoded in DNA of future children, scientists discover

However, the drug is not without possible health risks.

Produced by Orexigen Therapeutic Inc, the weight loss medication is a cocktail of two drugs, naltrexone, which is used in the treatment of alcohol and narcotic addiction, and bupropion, an antidepressant, also prescribed to people who want to quit smoking.

The FDA said the drug is approved for treatment of individuals who are considered to be clinically obese.

However, because the pill contains an antidepressant, the FDA said Contrave would carry a warning about the “risk of suicidal thoughts” when taking the medication. Experts point to the potentially hazardous drug combinations for users who may be taking other pharmaceutical drugs in addition to the new pill.

Contrave, Newest Weight Loss Option: FAQ http://t.co/h4b9ld2PAp

— WebMD (@WebMD) September 11, 2014

"Physicians prescribing these brain medications have to review patients other medications because they're frequently on antidepressants and there's an interaction," Dr. Ronald Tamler of Mount Sinai Hospital's diabetes center told AP.

But the potential health risks do not end there. Users of Contrave may also experience seizures, increased blood pressure and accelerated heart rates.

Reuters/Lucas Jackson

It was precisely due to the potential health risks associated with Orexigen’s new drug that the FDA, citing cardiovascular complications, rejected approval of the pill back in 2011. Orexigen resubmitted its application to regulators in December, saying that the drug fared well in an early analysis of a study designed to rule out excessive cardiovascular risk.

Although no word has been given on how much Contrave will cost, market experts predict the new drug will surpass sales of two other prescription weight-loss medication, Vivus Inc’s Qsymia and Arena's Belviq, two drugs approved in 2012 that fell far short of sales expectations

Contrave will be distributed in the United States by Takeda Pharmaceuticals, a Japanese company, which will give Orexigen royalties on sales, AP reported.

The weight-loss medication is expected to be available to consumers this fall.