A study of an experimental diet pill found that people not only lost weight but kept it off for two years, scientists reported Tuesday.
The results from a study of more than 3,000 obese people were presented at a medical conference, capping months of anticipation about a French pharmaceutical giant’s new drug, Acomplia.
Sanofi-Aventis, which funded the study, thinks its drug could have potential similar to cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.
In the study, obese people given Acomplia lost more than 5% of their initial body weight, and a third of them lost more than 10%, researchers said.
“They achieved and maintained a weight loss of 19 pounds as compared to 5.1 pounds in the placebo group,” said Dr. F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer of Columbia University in New York, who led the research and presented the results at the American Heart Assn. conference.
About two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, raising their risk for everything from cancer and cardiovascular disease to sore joints.
Drugs now on the market are designed for short-term use or have distasteful side effects such as bowel problems that make many shy away from them.
Sanofi-Aventis thinks Acomplia will avoid those problems by attacking obesity in a novel way, and plans to seek federal approval for it next year.
It’s the first diet drug aimed at blocking the “pleasure center” of the brain and interfering with the cycle of craving and satisfaction that drives many compulsive behaviors and addictions. This same circuitry is activated when people smoke marijuana.
“What we have here now is essentially a brand new mechanism to treat an epidemic of staggering progression,” said Dr. Douglas Greene, Sanofi-Aventis’ vice president of regulatory affairs.
“The results are very encouraging. The safety profile looks good. It seems like people tolerate the medication,” said Dr. Sidney C. Smith Jr., a University of North Carolina cardiologist who had no role in the study.