Benefits Of New Diet Drug Don't Outweigh Risks

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Don't bother with the hot new diet pill Redux -- the benefits don't outweigh the risks, according to a Cornell University nutritionist who has examined the 40 studies on long-term use of the diet pill. "People do lose weight more easily with Redux (d-fenfluramine) than with a placebo, but the advantage of taking the medication over a placebo after a year is less than 5-and-a-half pounds," said David Levitsky, professor of nutritional sciences and of psychology in the Division of Nutritional Sciences and Department of Psychology at Cornell and a nationally known expert on the control of obesity.

That amount of weight lost after one year of taking the drug daily rather than a placebo is equivalent to a 62-calorie difference a day, roughly the amount of calories in a medium-sized cookie or apple, or the amount burned by walking for a half-hour and making other small changes in daily motor activity. After one year, there is no indication that any further weight loss can be achieved by the medication alone, Levitsky said.

Until recently patients were prescribed appetite suppressing drugs such as Redux for no longer than 12 weeks to help them stick to their diets and lose weight. In the past several years, however, researchers and clinicians have observed that body weight returns to pretreatment levels when the medication is discontinued. Consequently, they have largely agreed that for weight reduction drugs to be effective, people must take them chronically, perhaps for a lifetime.

To determine just how much weight people could expect to lose if they took Redux or a similar drug for a long time, Levitsky analyzed the studies from all the articles published in scientific, peer-reviewed journals in which patients remained on fenfluramine for more than three months. His analysis is published in the January/February issue of Healthy Weight Journal, a publication intended for professional dietitians and clinical weight loss personnel.


Contact: Susan Lang
Cornell University News Service

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