WASHINGTON -- A drug currently approved to treat depression and help people quit smoking has shown promise as a potential weight-loss tool in a small pilot study, according to researchers at Duke University Medical Center. Results of their first eight weeks of research, prepared for presentation at the American Psychiatric Association meeting in Washington, showed that women who took buproprion SR, combined with a 1,600-calorie diet, lost four times more weight than women on a placebo, according to Duke psychiatrist Dr. Kishore Gadde, lead investigator of the study.
"Since the withdrawal of fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine, there has been a great need for effective medications," Gadde said. "More than 55 percent of Americans are considered overweight or obese, and obesity carries with it a tremendous risk of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes and a variety of cancers. So it is vital that we identify new and better ways of helping people lose weight and thereby reduce their medical risks."
Gadde became interested in studying bupropion SR while consulting as a psychiatrist at the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center. When he placed patients on the drug to treat their mild depression, they lost significantly greater amounts of weight during that particular stay compared with previous visits to the center.
Gadde then approached Glaxo-Wellcome, which markets the drug, with a proposal to test bupropion SR=s weight-loss properties in non-depressed women weighing an average of 222 pounds. He chose a 1,600-calorie diet because it is just 500 calories below what an average woman would eat and thus is considered safe and well-tolerated.
At the end of eight weeks, the 18 women who completed the study and took the drug lost 6.21 percent of their body weight, compared with a 1.56 percent weight loss in the 13 women who took a placebo. Women using the drug received a maximum of 200 mg twice daily.