1. From KO'd to OK'd: Rejected diet drug stages a comeback

    Nearly two years ago, an FDA panel rejected the Qnexa diet pill over safety concerns.

    Now, that same panel has given the drug the OK, which means the agency itself will almost certainly approve it for sale soon.

    But don't be fooled by this about-face, because the drug hasn't magically gotten any safer over the last two years.

    Qnexa still comes with all the same potential risks that caused the panel to think twice back in 2010: birth defects, suicidal thoughts, depression, memory loss, attention problems, bone problems, kidney stones, and more.

    Even worse, the drug can increase heart rate and cause heart palpitations -- and the panelists who approved it admit they don't know if those side effects will lead to heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems down the road.

    But they went ahead and approved it anyway.

    "The potential benefits of this medication seem to trump the side effects, but in truth, only time will tell," Dr. Kenneth Burman of the Washington Hospital Center confessed to Time magazine.

    Allow me to translate:

    "It could help people lose a bunch of weight, and it could well kill a whole bunch of people at the same time. Let's find out, shall we?"

    I say let's not -- because if this drug's history is any indication, its widespread use will lead to more problems than this panel is letting on.

    Qnexa isn't a new drug -- it's actually a combination of two older drugs: the amphetamine phentermine, better known as the "phen" in fen-phen (yes, THAT fen-phen), and the seizure drug topiramate.

    It's more of a side-effect cocktail than an actual drug -- so much so that 40 percent of the people who took the high dose in a company-funded trial had to drop out.

    Many of those who stuck with it were rewarded with weight loss of close to 10 percent of their body weight. But 10 percent for an obese person isn't an achievement. It's someone who's just a little less obese -- and it took them a full year to get there to boot.

    What's more, patients who take the drug still have to make diet and lifestyle changes and get more exercise. And if you have to do all that to get thin, why bother messing around with drugs like Qnexa in the first place?

    Skip the meds and eat better instead.

    Try a low-carb or Mediterranean-style diet, and the pounds will melt away as if by magic -- and you'll soon find yourself reaching in the back of your closet for clothes you never thought you'd wear again.

  2. Bad news for bad diet pills

    How do you define "effective" when it comes to dieting?

    If it's shaving off a few pounds and calling it a year, then you must be a Food and Drug Administration bureaucrat.

    An FDA panel wisely rejected the diet drug Qnexa--but not because it's ineffective. The panel was largely concerned about the drug's potential for side effects, including the risk of birth defects, suicide, depression, memory loss, bone problems, kidney stones, and more.

    But beyond that, Qnexa met and even exceeded the ludicrously low FDA targets for effectiveness--and may even be more "effective" than any of the diet drugs currently on the market.

    And here's how they define "effective" these days: The FDA says a drug needs to help a patient lose 5 percent of his or her body weight over the course of a full year.

    So if you're 250 pounds, an "effective" diet pill would help you lose about a pound a month. Qnexa did a little better than that--but only barely. Patients in the trials lost between 6 and 10 percent of their body weight, so the person in that 250-pound example could make it all the way down to between 225 and 235 pounds.

    Lighter, sure--but not a whole lot healthier.

    And even that little bit of weight-loss help came with a big catch: The people in the study who lost the weight also had to stick to a diet and exercise program.

    They haven't made a pill yet that can cancel out Krispy Kreme donuts.

    But you don't need to wait for that magic pill to come along--because you can easily lose that 5 percent in month or so--not a year--on your own... and that's only the beginning.

    No matter how overweight or obese you are, simple lifestyle changes like getting rid of carbs will bring your body back to order, with no need to tolerate any drug side effects.

    Just look at Drew Carey. The comic and "Price Is Right" host recently lost 80 pounds--and got rid of any sign of his type 2 diabetes--with a low-carb diet. He says he doesn't even take diabetes meds anymore.

    You can find pictures of him online--he looks like a completely different person.

    And if he can do it after decades of being so famously overweight, so can you.

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