The FDA should invite Morpheus. (Warner Bros.)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is looking over a new anti-obesity drug that causes “significant” weight loss, so anyone looking for that elusive “magic pill,” the FDA’s final decision will be released in October.

The drug is called Qnexa, and is manufactured by a company named Vivus. (No, I don’t know what’s up with these goofy, Matrix-esque names, either.) It’s supposed to be for people who aren’t getting the results they want in other ways, but who don’t want surgery, either.

Qnexa is a combination of the stimulant phentermine and topiramate. You remember phentermine, don’t you? It was the “phen” part of the drug Fen-phen that was yanked from the market after being linked to heart problems and death. Wyeth finally pulled the drug in the 1990s, and is still dealing with more than $13 billion and lawsuits.

While phentermine cuts appetite, topiramate increases the sense of feeling full. Topiramate is currently sold under the brand name Topamax, a drug that treats migraines and seizures.

Today, Qnexa faces a review by the FDA's endocrinologic and metabolic drugs advisory committee, which has already stated its concerns about  the drug’s side effects – specifically, increases in anxiety, sleep disturbances and depression. The panel is also concerned about whether or not the med is safe for pregnant women.


Vivus argues the benefits outweigh the risks – as if anyone would expect them to say otherwise.

In clinical trials, Qnexa reduced 10 percent of body weight in patients taking a high dosage of the drug, while patients taking low to medium dosages lost 5 percent and 8 percent, respectively. An increase in adverse reactions was reported in those taking the higher dosage.

In addition, the FDA found that four to seven times as many patients taking the highest dose of Qnexa dropped out of the study because of anxiety-, sleep- or depression-related side effects.


OK, people. For starters, I truly do understand the appeal of a magic weight-loss pill. I also understand the appeal of full-fat ice cream. Neither is worth its possible side effects.

My concern is that we continue to look to pills and prescriptions for answers, without really taking into account the toll such chemicals take on our quality of life.

That’s supposed to be part of the FDA’s mandate today: Deciding whether Qnexa’s benefits outweigh the risks to the heart, brain and fetuses. Please understand that sentence: There are proven risks; the FDA is figuring out whether losing a few pounds is worth it.


Folks, you know I don’t believe in magic pills, magic panties, magic anything. If such things truly worked, more than two-thirds of the U.S. population would not be overweight or obese.

I’ll say it again: If I can lose weight, anyone can. No it’s not easy, but I’d rather burn fat on the treadmill than burn brain cells popping impossibly named pills that you can rest-assured will be very expensive.

OK. I’m finished ranting. Off to the gym . . .

You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. ~   Morpheus, in The Matrix


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Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.