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New weight loss drug: Mood poison!

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A new drug called Riobant (rimonabant) has been developed to help people lose weight. Users lose an average of ten pounds more over a year than people using a placebo. Story here.

The drug is an "endocannabinoid receptor antagonist," which is another way of saying that it's reverse marijuana. Apparently you lose weight because you get the anti-munchies.

Think for a second what else marijuana does, though: It makes you feel happy. So would reverse marijuana make you sad? Turns out the answer is yes. Users of rimonabant reported a high incidence of depression, anxiety, and insomnia compared to the placebo group.

Normally, a doctor and/or patient would weigh the risks of a drug against its potential benefits. Obesity is a risk factor for deadly diseases such as heart disease, so on the surface it would seem rimonabant might be worth the risk for obese people with unhealthy arteries. Unfortunately, weight loss associated with rimonabant does not improve coronary artery health.

So in my opinion, this drug should not be approved. "Psychiatric side effects" are a huge deal. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the U.S. The benefit of slight weight loss (less than a pound a month, remember) does not outweigh the risk of these unwanted effects, if the weight loss has only cosmetic impact.

Anybody disagree? Would losing weight, but not improving health, be worth depression, anxiety, and insomnia?

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Milehimama said...
April 5, 2008 at 8:49 PM  

Not only are psychiatric side effects a huge deal, depression is often brushed aside or overlooked, leading to misdiagnosis and the wrong treatment.

Suicide is a leading cause of death among bipolar persons, and I would wonder if the risk of suicide is less than the risk of death from obesity related factors.

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