Pills for Pounds

It is well established that excess body weight is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, and in some cases losing weight can make diabetes easier to control or — in exceptional cases — reverse Type 2 diabetes entirely. News stories with a medical perspective on weight loss often focus on bariatric (weight-loss) surgery, which has been the subject of four Diabetes Flashpoints posts this year.


But the growing popularity of bariatric surgery has not sapped interest in a more old-fashioned idea: weight-loss drugs. A recent article in The New York Times outlines three new drugs that are being developed, as well as the history of weight-loss drugs — which contains many prominent failures. These include the popular combination pill fen-phen, which was discontinued in 1997 after being linked to heart-valve damage. Other drugs have recently failed to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or have been approved but failed to attain great popularity — possibly because they lead to an average loss of only 5% of body weight. One of the new drugs, in contrast, has been found to induce an average loss of 9% of body weight.

However, safety concerns remain, largely because of the problems associated with previous drugs of this type. Most clinical trials of the new drugs lasted only one year — possibly not long enough to detect adverse effects that could come after years of use. Also because of the limited duration of the trials, it is unknown whether the weight loss these drugs cause is sustainable after a year.

What do you think — would you be interested in taking a drug to lose weight, even if the results were modest? Have you tried taking drugs or supplements for weight loss already? Would you prefer to try a drug for weight loss before deciding to have bariatric surgery? And given their track record so far, how much energy do you think should be devoted to developing drugs of this type? Leave a comment below!

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  • Shawna

    I’m on a weight loss program including diet pills that are prescribe by a medical doctor, walking 30 minutes at least three times a week and a diet.
    I am a Type 1 diabetic and check my BG 10 times a day for a long time. I have gain weight in the last two years because of my low BG’s. For the last five months I have lost 21 pounds by taking 37.5mg of phentermine daily exercising for 30 minutes 6 times a week and diet. The reason why the doctor put me on a low dose because sometimes it will make your BG’s go too low. So far it hasn’t and I go to doctor every month to get a check up. Plus weigh in.

  • Sally Smart

    I would only take a drug if the results were enough to make a difference in health and prevention of other diseases. yes I think there should be mote study on diet pills because some have more problems losing then others and surgury should not be the answer if there can be something easier. I would not go for surgury if I needed to if there was a pill or other method. Surgury scares the heck out of me, I cant even go get a tattoo, I hate pain. I am not in the catagory for such surgury but am a little over weight and find it very hard to lose a few pounds and keep it off. Would love something to help and I think we all do and I know if I did lose it this would encourage me to eat better then I sometimes do.

  • Russell Stratton

    Don’t waste time trying to develop drugs for weight loss. The old fashion remedy is exercise and willpower at the kitchen table. Eat sensibly with lots of fruits & vegetables and you will lose weight. Eliminate the fats and excess carbs from your diet and you will burn the fat off and lose weight. If you are not one to go to the gym for exercise , just walk . Walking is an excellent form of exercise .The problem is we find excuses for ourselves not to exercise & eat properly.

  • Suzanne

    To me, weight loss surgery would be the last available option for me. I would really appreciate a medication to cut my cravings and get me eating a normal amount. Maybe something that would make me dislike sweets? LOL

  • Kathy

    I had the weightloss surgery in 1992, lost 89 pounds then gained back 50 of it because meat got stuck in the small opening and they had to stretch it open to retrieve the meat causing me to be able to eat more again because the food moves straight through. I still need to lose 100 lbs. I try to get to the gym 3 times a week and do water arobics but if the water is too cold I can’t stand to stay in it very long. I have degenerative disc disease, arthritis and fibromyalgia that makes working out difficult. I am in constant chronic pain. My L4 and L5 disc are moving causing severe back pain. The surgeon can’t do surgery on my spine until I lose 70 pounds. I would be grateful for a pill that could help me lose weight.

  • Cheryl Talk

    As this comment before me so smartly said, I would really appreciate a medication to cut my cravings and get me eating a normal amount. Maybe something that would make me dislike sweets?
    I am totally with you on this…. I am ashamed I cant control my cravings,,The cravings will not stop,,,Its worst than when I quit smoking. While I was breaking the smoking habit, I could stay away from smoke /cigarettes, and people who smoked. I cant just quit eating, especially since my diabetes is soaring out of control.I do not have the option for surgery,, no insurance.
    Help!!! I need life saving help.

  • Tom

    I have Type 2 diabetes which I have had since 1994. It has beaten me down and done a lot of damage. I am also walking on two legs that need knee replacement, have severe nerve pain and loss. My diabetes is very hard to control along with my other medical conditions and injuries.

    Losing weight is a very slow process for me and I took Xenical for years (orilast) a tremendous drug. Without insurance though I cannot afford it.

    I eat very carefully five small meals a day plus a bedtime snack. I walk up and down my driveway twice a day (4/10ths) of a mile round trip and as I live in the mountains it is a 15% sloped drive.

    I have averaged 1/2 pounds of weight loss per week and it really gets down to what they have always taught diabetics; diet and exercise. If an affordable non-narcotic drug were on the market I would take it. But the 1/2 pounds per week means two pounds per month, its’ fine with me.

    Just have to keep fighting this incedous disease and not give in.

    Peace – Tom

  • Sally Smart

    (((((Don’t waste time trying to develop drugs for weight loss. The old fashion remedy is exercise and willpower at the kitchen table…..)))))

    Easy for you to say, some of us have very different lives then you might have and time, or availability of the perfect food might not be so easy for some. Some may not have your perfect willpower either, depends on what else might be going on in our lives. If it were that easy there would not be a problem and we would all look exactly the same, would we not???
    There is time being spent on many of the down falls we all either have or know someone who has and so why stop here?

    And to Suzanne, dissliking sweets would be an awsome fix, I wonder if we all had something like a tube of pure lemon or lime goo in our pockets and we saw sweets and put the goo on our tongue first would it help haha, I remember when I was a kid, if I ate an orange or grapefriut and then tried something sweet it tasted really bad because the two sugars did not work well together. you are on to something, maybe we should try to come up with a solution.
    My problem is not sweets as much as it was white flour products like pasta and breads but there has to be some help somewhere. Even tho I try I cant seem to loose the 20 pounds I want to and keep it off, it keeps trying to come back.

  • Barb Fisher

    Mr. Stratton must be one in a million. I have tried everything I can to lose some weight and nothing works. Not everybody can do the things you really should do. I can’t walk as they suggest because of severe back pain when standing. I know I would feel better if I could drop some weight. I think my back might even feel better. So yes, I would gladly take a weight loss drug.

  • Colleen Tait

    I would be very interested in a pill for weight loss. All of my life I have had a battle with
    weight and now on insulin, it’s even harder. If it
    could help my diabetes, it would be tremendous.

  • Sally Smart

    That is kinda what I was getting at too, Some of us do have problems walking, it is ok for the genreal public to tell us to walk without asking us if we are able to walk, I have medical problems with my feet that allow me to walk maybe 30 mins on a good day and I would love someone to come and help me do that but on some days it is not an option just because I want to lose some weight, I do other things when I can too but it does not seem to make a big difference. My life at one time was so busy with odd shift work that it was nearly impossible to take the time and with all of the pounding of pavement I did at work it was even harder to think of as a good thing to do, that is why when I see someone tell the rest of us how darned easy it is, I think it is time to say we are not YOU as much as we would like to be so a pill giving some of us a head start would be a great tool to make these other options a possibility. I love to walk just wish I could and I cook with good food but my energy use is not as high as some. Good luck to all and hope we see something in the near future that will help, as a world of problems happen around us of many different shapes and types, we all deserve the tools to help.

  • Begonia05

    What is needed is a pill that deals with carbs and the starve mode issue. Many of us make changes and our bodies rebel causing us to give up.and over again. Something that will support and help us to make the healty changes needed.