Weight Loss drug linked to suicide and anxiety?

Bloomberg.com: Worldwide

Sanofi-Aventis SA’s weight-loss pill may raise the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts, U.S. regulators said in documents that may help an expert panel decide whether the three-time delayed drug should be approved.

The FDA noted two suicides in clinical trials of volunteers testing the drug. The panel will be asked to discuss whether it can establish a causal link between the medicine and suicidal thoughts or actions.

Some patients who took part in clinical trials of Acomplia suffered from mood swings, anxiety and depression. Trial volunteers given the highest dose lost an average 5.3 kilograms (11.7 pounds) over a one-year period compared with a weight loss of 1.4 kilograms (3.1 pounds) among patients given a control pill. Acomplia significantly lowered the level of HbA1c, a measure of blood sugar, to within a safe range.

So, here’s the classic case for the FDA, as discussed earlier today! Accomplia is a drug designed for weight loss, what I would call a “life management” drug. In clinical trials, which are strictly controlled, and where patients/volunteers are selected and carefully monitored, it seems to increase the incidence of suicidal thoughts, increase anxiety, mood swings and depression. The drug acts by blocking certain receptors in the brain, which should hint at other unforseen effects on the brain. The FDA has been more cautious on this drug than the European regulators, who have approved this drug.

What would I do if I were the FDA? I would wait 2-3 years for post approval studies in Europe to catch any mental health effects. After all, out in the real world, people take drugs imperfectly. The ones who should not qualify take it any way, doctors over-prescribe to patients who would hardly need the drug, things just don’t work as well. So, the best thing for the FDA to do is, nothing! In fact, the FDA is expected to punt the decision to 2010, good job!

Let’s put the benefits of this drug in perspective, all it did was make people lose 10 pounds more than placebo over the course of a year. This is the functional equivalent of eating 100 calories less per day for the period. Is that worth taking a pill everyday to keep that weight off and risking depression, anxiety and suicide?

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