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New diet pill could come with hefty side effects

7:18 AM, Jul 19, 2012   |    comments
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The Food and Drug Administration approved a new prescription diet drug called Qnexa on Tuesday.

Tests have shown the drug can lead to dramatic weight loss, but not without some potential hefty side effects.

Yvonne Sanders can relate to that, saying she's tried everything from shakes to pills.

"I had some really bad side effects, which is what made me stop and say, 'Oh my goodness, I don't want to go this route.'"

Sanders said she tried the diet drug Fen-Phen 15 years ago.  "I had heart palpitations and I felt faint."

That's why Sanders said she is not excited about the new diet drug Qnexa.

Qnexa contains one of the ingredients - phentermine - that was also used in the troubled diet pill Fen-Phen.  In the 1990s, Fen-Phen  was determined to cause serious heart valve problems.

Texas Star Pharmacy owner and pharmacist Donna Barsky says the ingredient phentermine can be of concern because it is known to cause heart palpitations.

"In heart palpitations, if it is in long going, it can create a situation where you have heart congestion," she said.

As a pharmacist, Barsky tells patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and thyroid disorder that they should not take a product with phentermine in it.  Barsky also cautions women who are thinking about having children about the second ingredient in Qnexa called topiramate.  It's often used in seizure medication by people who have epilepsy.

"With topiramate, you would not want to become pregnant,' she said. "It has a high incident of cleft palate."

Not only are birth defects a concern, but the drug can decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills.

The upside? Obese people can lose up to 10 percent of their weight using Qnexa.  Clinical trials show promising results.

"Some of the preliminary trials have shown weight loss more than we've seen with any other anti-obesity drugs."  said Dr. Priscilla Hollander with Baylor Dallas.

Dr. Hollander likes the fact that Qnexa will initially be available only by mail order, and not at doctor's offices, as a way to proceed with caution.

"It does have potential, and I think this is a good way of proceeding with it,"  she said.

Doctors say exercise and a healthy diet remains a weight-loss must. That is the only way Yvonne Sanders keeps her weight off.

She said she gave up gimmicks and quick fixes, saying diet pills didn't work for her.  She works with Slimming World,  which is a program that focuses on portion control and eating well-balanced meals.


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