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As one anti-obesity drug bites the dust, another hopeful emerges

Tuesday, November 04, 2008 Posted by Peter Janiszewski, PhD
In response to a recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on October 23, 2008, Sanofi Aventis suspended the European sales of its anorectic (appetite suppressant) anti-obesity drug, rimonabant (Acomplia). By blocking the CB-1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system – the same system which induces the “munchies” in response to cannabis smoking, rimonabant not only suppressed appetite, but not surprisingly, also had negative effects on mood. Apparently, the administration of ribmonabant was associated with anxiety and depressive mood disorders - the same side-effects which initially prompted the US FDA to refuse approval of rimonabant back in 2007. Additionally, in the same month, Merck suddenly ended 5 of its phase-III clinical trials investigating the effects of another CB-1 blocker, taranabant. Thus, what many hoped would be the new obesity cure, has once again fallen short of predictions.

While the above may make you more depressed than taking rimonabant, those searching for an obesity panacea may just be in luck! The very same day that EMA derailed rimonabant, a very interesting phase-II clinical trial for another anti-obesity drug was published online in the prestigious journal Lancet (Read the article here) . According to this study, tensofensine - a norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin uptake inhibitor – is much more successful at achieving weight loss than other drugs – including rimonabant. By acting as an appetite-suppressant, akin to rimonabant, tensofensine was shown to reduce body weight by 10kg and waist circumference by 7cm over the placebo group during the 6-month intervention – approximately double that achieved by already available obesity drugs. In contrast to rimonabant, however, this drug does not seem to predispose to negative mood disorders, but it does cause the usual array of effects including headaches, GI distress, dry mouth and insomnia. Thus, phase-III clinical trials will shortly follow, along with the usual public and media hysteria over the new and all-powerful anti-obesity potion. We’ll just have to wait and see whether tensofensine eventually becomes another rimonabant, or taranabant, or leptin etc.

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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.

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