Science / Medicine : Drug Hailed in Weight Loss

From Times Staff and Wire service reports

Overweight people could control their appetites without jangled nerves and drug dependency if a European appetite suppressant under study for a French pharmaceutical company proves successful.

University of Florida psychologist Neil Rowland recently completed a preliminary study of the effect of dexfenfluramine on laboratory rats fattened either by an eat-all-you-want feast of chocolate-chip cookies and sweetened milk or by surgically neutering the animals to control hormone levels.

"In either case, we end up with fat rats. They overeat and put on the human equivalent of 50 extra pounds in a few weeks," Rowland said. "We then administer the drug to the rats through surgically implanted capsules. What we find is that on this drug, the rats show considerable sustained weight loss."

Dexfenfluramine, which has been available in Europe for several years, has several advantages over more traditional diet drugs, Rowland said. It "does not have any stimulant properties; if anything, one side effect is mild sedation."

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