Long-term effects of weight-reducing drugs in people with hypertension

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021 Jan 17;1(1):CD007654. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007654.pub5.


Background: This is the third update of this review, first published in July 2009. All major guidelines on treatment of hypertension recommend weight loss; anti-obesity drugs may be able to help in this respect.

Objectives: Primary objectives: To assess the long-term effects of pharmacologically-induced reduction in body weight in adults with essential hypertension on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular morbidity, and adverse events (including total serious adverse events, withdrawal due to adverse events, and total non-serious adverse events).. Secondary objectives: To assess the long-term effects of pharmacologically-induced reduction in body weight in adults with essential hypertension on change from baseline in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and on body weight reduction.

Search methods: For this updated review, the Cochrane Hypertension Information Specialist searched the following databases for randomised controlled trials up to March 2020: the Cochrane Hypertension Specialised Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE (from 1946), Embase (from 1974), the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, and ClinicalTrials.gov. The searches had no language restrictions. We contacted authors of relevant papers about further published and unpublished work.

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials of at least 24 weeks' duration in adults with hypertension that compared approved long-term weight-loss medications to placebo. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently selected studies, assessed risks of bias, and extracted data. Where appropriate and in the absence of significant heterogeneity between studies (P > 0.1), we pooled studies using a fixed-effect meta-analysis. When heterogeneity was present, we used the random-effects method and investigated the cause of the heterogeneity.

Main results: This third update of the review added one new trial, investigating the combination of naltrexone/bupropion versus placebo. Two medications, which were included in the previous versions of this review (rimonabant and sibutramine) are no longer considered relevant for this update, since their marketing approval was withdrawn in 2010 and 2009, respectively. The number of included studies in this review update is therefore six (12,724 participants in total): four RCTs comparing orlistat to placebo, involving a total of 3132 participants with high blood pressure and a mean age of 46 to 55 years; one trial comparing phentermine/topiramate to placebo, involving 1305 participants with high blood pressure and a mean age of 53 years; and one trial comparing naltrexone/bupropion to placebo, involving 8283 participants with hypertension and a mean age of 62 years. We judged the risks of bias to be unclear for the trials investigating orlistat or naltrexone/bupropion. and low for the trial investigating phentermine/topiramate. Only the study of naltrexone/bupropion included cardiovascular mortality and morbidity as predefined outcomes. There were no differences in the rates of all-cause or cardiovascular mortality, major cardiovascular events, or serious adverse events between naltrexone/bupropion and placebo. The incidence of overall adverse events was significantly higher in participants treated with naltrexone/bupropion. For orlistat, the incidence of gastrointestinal side effects was consistently higher compared to placebo. The most frequent side effects with phentermine/topiramate were dry mouth and paraesthesia. After six to 12 months, orlistat reduced systolic blood pressure compared to placebo by mean difference (MD) -2.6 mm Hg (95% confidence interval (CI) -3.8 to -1.4 mm Hg; 4 trials, 2058 participants) and diastolic blood pressure by MD -2.0 mm Hg (95% CI -2.7 to -1.2 mm Hg; 4 trials, 2058 participants). After 13 months of follow-up, phentermine/topiramate decreased systolic blood pressure compared to placebo by -2.0 to -4.2 mm Hg (1 trial, 1030 participants) (depending on drug dosage), and diastolic blood pressure by -1.3 to -1.9 mm Hg (1 trial, 1030 participants) (depending on drug dosage). There was no difference in the change in systolic or diastolic blood pressure between naltrexone/bupropion and placebo (1 trial, 8283 participants). We identified no relevant studies investigating liraglutide or lorcaserin in people with hypertension.

Authors' conclusions: In people with elevated blood pressure, orlistat, phentermine/topiramate and naltrexone/bupropion reduced body weight; the magnitude of the effect was greatest with phentermine/topiramate. In the same trials, orlistat and phentermine/topiramate, but not naltrexone/bupropion, reduced blood pressure. One RCT of naltrexone/bupropion versus placebo showed no differences in all-cause mortality or cardiovascular mortality or morbidity after two years. The European Medicines Agency refused marketing authorisation for phentermine/topiramate due to safety concerns, while for lorcaserin the application for European marketing authorisation was withdrawn due to a negative overall benefit/risk balance. In 2020 lorcaserin was also withdrawn from the US market. Two other medications (rimonabant and sibutramine) had already been withdrawn from the market in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / therapeutic use
  • Appetite Depressants / adverse effects*
  • Appetite Depressants / therapeutic use
  • Bias
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Bupropion / adverse effects
  • Bupropion / therapeutic use
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Fructose / adverse effects
  • Fructose / analogs & derivatives
  • Fructose / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension / mortality
  • Lactones / adverse effects
  • Lactones / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Naltrexone / adverse effects
  • Naltrexone / therapeutic use
  • Orlistat / adverse effects
  • Orlistat / therapeutic use
  • Phentermine / adverse effects
  • Phentermine / therapeutic use
  • Piperidines / adverse effects
  • Piperidines / therapeutic use
  • Pyrazoles / adverse effects
  • Pyrazoles / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Safety-Based Drug Withdrawals
  • Time
  • Topiramate / adverse effects
  • Topiramate / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Appetite Depressants
  • Drug Combinations
  • Lactones
  • Naltrexone-Bupropion combination
  • Piperidines
  • Pyrazoles
  • Bupropion
  • Topiramate
  • Fructose
  • Naltrexone
  • Orlistat
  • Phentermine