For those who might have missed the news, the FDA approved a new diet pill last week, although it won’t be available until later this year. According to the article, “Qsymia is a controlled-release formulation that combines low doses of two older generic drugs: the stimulant phentermine, which cuts appetite, and topiramate, which increases the sense of feeling full.” It stated that “about 70% of patients lost at least 5% of their body weight compared with 20% on a placebo”.
Sounds great, right? But there was a side comment in the article that I fear will be overlooked by many people: “The approval was based on two clinical studies involving about 3,700 obese and overweight patients who were treated for one year with medication as well as diet and exercise.” (emphasis added)
My concern with this diet pill, as well as others, is that people will feel like it’s an easy solution, that once they take it, they don’t have to do anything else and pounds will magically melt away. (Or perhaps walk away, if you’re a fan of Doctor Who and the Adipose.)
At least, that was my thought when I was younger. Not that I ever tried diet pills, per se, but I tried a variety of other things, including some pills that were meant to stimulate my metabolism, or herbs to stimulate my thyroid, etc. I always assumed that if I took this one thing, that was all I had to do.
The problem is that it doesn’t work that way. I know that for me, eating junk food doesn’t promote much satiety, which made it easy for me to get more calories than I needed with relatively little food, and likely not the nutrients I needed. I’ve also found that exercise helps me feel less hungry, as well as better in general, but many people may ignore that part of the study’s results.
Besides which, if people are already eating for reasons that have nothing to do with hunger or how full they feel - eating out of boredom, stress, loneliness, celebration, etc. - this sort of drug will not help. Those underlying issues will remain. The diet pill may help slightly, but it won’t solve what caused the problem in the first place, and then what happens when they stop taking the pill? Probably the same thing that happens when most people go off diets - they’ll gain the weight back.
I’m not saying that this can’t help some people, but I hope that those who take it will recognize that this alone will not solve all their problems, or be the only thing they need to do to lose weight.