New drug therapies for the treatment of overweight and obese patients

Am Health Drug Benefits. 2013 Sep;6(7):423-30.


Background: Obesity is a serious and costly disease that is growing in epidemic proportions. Obesity-related hospitalizations have nearly tripled from 1996 to 2009. If the current trend in the growth of obesity continues, the total healthcare costs attributable to obesity could reach $861 billion to $957 billion by 2030. The American Medical Association has officially recognized obesity as a disease. Obesity is a public health crisis affecting approximately more than 33% of Americans and costing the healthcare system more than $190 billion annually.

Objectives: To review the 2 new drugs that were recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of obesity, lorcaserin HCl (Belviq) and phentermine/topiramate (Qsymia) and their potential impact on the treatment of obese patients.

Discussion: Lifestyle modification is the first and mainstay treatment for obesity. Antiobesity drugs are indicated as adjuncts to a healthy, low-fat, low-calorie diet and an exercise plan. Currently, 4 drugs are approved by the FDA for the treatment of obesity, 2 of which were approved after June 2012. These 2 drugs, Belviq and Qsymia, have added new tools for the treatment of obesity. In addition to reducing body mass index, these drugs have been shown to reduce hemoglobin A1c levels in patients with diabetes and blood pressure levels in patients with hypertension, as well as to decrease lipid levels in patients with hyperlipidemia. This article reviews the drugs' mechanisms of action, evaluates landmark clinical studies leading to the FDA approval of the 2 drugs, their common side effects, and the benefits these new drugs can provide toward the management of the obesity epidemic that are different from other medications currently available.

Conclusion: The weight loss seen in patients who are using the 2 new medications has been shown to further improve other cardiometabolic health parameters, including blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and serum lipid levels. Based on clinical trials evidence, it is likely that many obese patients could benefit from these therapies, if used appropriately.