A Recent History of Legal Weight Loss Drugs


Like finding a cure for hair loss or the secret to female pleasure, one of the holy grails of the pharmaceutical industry is inventing a pill that will help people lose weight without dying. Except for some reason it keeps not working out, because side effects are revealed and people get sick and die. This system we’ve got going on here about how we all want to change our bodies without any repercussions to look just like [insert hot person here] isn’t really so great, now is it?

The latest miracle drug is Belviq. Before we see what makes Belviq so special, let’s first meet its brothers and sisters of recent yesteryear and today! These drugs all have been, or are still, prescribed for patients considered obese by their doctors according to the often-questionable BMI standards. The companies selling them also stress that patients are required to change their diet and exercise habits as well. None of them, when taken alone, resulted in as drastic a weight loss as say, getting gastric bypass. Most of them were not recommended for extended use.

1997 – Sibutramine, or Meridia, is put on the market. In 2010, the FDA pulls Meridia because of a trial study done that “demonstrated a 16 percent increase in the risk of serious heart events” in patients who used sibutramine. When prescribed, the drug messed with how the brain handles serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, sending signals to the body that it’s satiated before full.

1999 – Orlistat is approved. You’ve seen it marketed as Alli (sold over the counter) or Xenical (available with a prescription). It works by blocking an enzyme that would allow the body to absorb fat, so instead you shit it out, hence the common side effect of “oily bowel movements.” That gross visual is lessoned when fat in the diet is reduced. There have been 13 reports of severe liver damage while on the drug, mostly for those on Xenical, which has a higher dosage than Alli.

2011 – The FDA rejects Contrave as a possible new anti-obesity drug, requiring that greater study be made into the possibilities that it could cause heart problems. The potential drug was a combination of the antidepressant bupropion and naltrexone, which is used by those who are alcohol and drug dependent.

2012 – A combination of phentermine and topiramate sold as Qsymia (first called Qnexa, remember that?) is approved. Topiramate is used to prevent seizures or migraines, but it happens to have resulted side effects that include weight loss. The drug’s website declares that “The exact way in which Qsymia works is not known.” It can only be purchased at certified pharmacies with a prescription. Common unpleasant side effects are tingling of the hands and feet, altered taste sensation, insomnia, etc.

2013 – Lorcaserin, or Belviq, is approved after a test period. It works by altering a serotonin receptor in the brain, which makes you feel less hungry and hopefully makes you eat less. Some have concerns about heart valve issues, but general symptoms are dizziness, fatigue, constipation, etc.

In case none of these feel like right fit for your life, there’s always the Kardashian-approved QuickTrim.

Image via FDA/AP

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