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Pharmacotherapy of Obesity

Currently Marketed and Upcoming Agents


In many industrialized nations, obesity is now considered an epidemic, resulting in accelerated morbidity and mortality. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease as well as the metabolic syndrome comprising abdominal obesity, increased fasting blood glucose levels, dyslipidemia and hypertension, which are all recognized cardiovascular risk factors. Diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes constitute important recommendations for treatment. Unfortunately, although effective in some individuals, these recommendations have proven to be ineffective in adequately addressing the broad, enlarging scope of this public health problem.

Drug treatment is often indicated but is somewhat limited by the minimal number of well tolerated drugs that have proven to have long-term efficacy in maintaining bodyweight loss. For example, phentermine may result in modest bodyweight loss through suppression of appetite, but potential cardiovascular adverse effects exist and the efficacy is mainly short-term. Sibutramine, an inhibitor of serotonin and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) reuptake, may increase satiety and result in modest bodyweight loss. However, cardiovascular adverse effects may occur in susceptible patients. Nonetheless, sibutramine is one of the few drugs that has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for bodyweight loss. Orlistat, a lipase inhibitor, is also approved by the FDA for bodyweight loss but may have bothersome gastrointestinal adverse effects, especially among patients who do not adhere to the recommended low-fat diet. Ongoing studies continue to evaluate other drug treatments that may result in bodyweight reduction through a number of different mechanisms.

It is anticipated that the development of effective and well tolerated antiobesity drugs will elevate the pharmacologic treatment of obesity to the status of other cardiovascular risk factors and metabolic disorders. This may be especially important given that dyslipidemia, hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus are often secondary to, or exacerbated by, obesity.

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Correspondence to Carlos Dujovne.

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Bays, H., Dujovne, C. Pharmacotherapy of Obesity. Am J Cordiovosc Drugs 2, 245–253 (2002).

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  • Obesity
  • Orlistat
  • Rimonabant
  • Sibutramine
  • Coronary Heart Disease Event