Prozac and Sarafem, known generically as fluoxetine, are most commonly prescribed as antidepressants. Xenical, the brand name for orlistat, blocks fat digestion in the intestines. Meridia, known generically as subtramine, is an appetite suppressant that works in the brain.
According to the systematic evidence review by Dr. Susan Norris of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and colleagues, patients taking fluoxetine had lost an average of 11 pounds (5.1 kilograms) 24 to 26 weeks after starting the therapy. Patients taking orlistat had lost an average of four and a half pounds (two kilograms) 12 to 57 weeks later, and those taking sibutramine had lost an average of 11 pounds 12 to 52 weeks later.
"The magnitude of weight loss is modest, however, and the long-term health benefits remain unclear," the review concludes.
Side effects of the therapies included oily bowel movements for those taking orlistat; sweating, tremors and drowsiness among fluoxetine users; and heart palpitations in some sibutramine patients.
Although the researchers acknowledge that long-term weight loss is "of paramount importance," they say their review could help determine how weight loss drugs should fit into the overall picture of type 2 diabetes care.
"For example, if weight loss can be demonstrated with drugs in the short term, pharmacotherapy may be combined with behavioral interventions for long-term weight control," Norris says.
The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality
Contact: Susan Norris
Center for the Advancement of Health