Sunday, March 17, 2013

Metformin As an Obesity Drug

The three obesity drugs, Qsymia, made by Vivus, Belviq, made by Arena Pharmaceuticals, and Contrave, made by Orexigen Therapeutics, are receiving the most attention these days. Qysmia and Belviq have already gained FDA approval, and Contrave is expected to gain approval in the future. However, there is a well known type 2 diabetes drug that has shown potential as a weight loss drug. That drug is Metformin. 

The Canadians approved Metformin in 1972, and the U.S. approved the drug in 1994 for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes raises one's risks of cardiovascular problems. Therefore, improving glycemic control and reducing cardiovascular risk factors are important in treating type 2 diabetes. And Metformin has been shown to be effective in improving glycemic control, insulin resistance, lipid profiles,  and other conditions and measurements associated with type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

But Metformin may have other beneficial effects. One study indicates that "There is increasing evidence from in vivo and in vitro studies supporting its anti-proliferative role in cancer and possibly a neuroprotective effect."  And another study concludes that "Metformin causes weight loss in both diabetic and non-diabetic individuals." And that "Metformin treatment is also associated with lower circulating levels of the orexigenic hormone ghrelin."

Often, one problem with drugs is a lack of knowledge concerning their effectiveness and safety in the treatment of children. Well, at least one study has demonstrated that Metformin can be used relatively safely for the treatment of obesity in adolescents.

The researchers concluded that "in the short term, administration of Metformin in addition to lifestyle modification is relatively effective for reducing BMI and hyperinsulinemia among obese adolescents without related morbidity, and [the drug] displays an acceptable safety pattern."

Another potential problem with many drugs, especially obesity prescription drugs like Qsymia and Belviq, is the cost of the drugs. Cost becomes more of a problem when insurers are reluctant to cover part of the price of the drug. However, Metformin is relatively inexpensive. Indeed, many retailers offer a 30-day supply of the drug for  4 dollars. So, some day, Metformin might be considered an optimum option for the treatment of obesity. Only time will tell.

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