Obesity is an epidemic. Over a billion people worldwide are overweight or obese. So naturally weight-loss drugs are big business. New research reveals that though over $1.2 billion was spent on obesity drugs worldwide in 2005, pills do not help people lose a significant amount of weight. BBC News reports that a team from the University of Alberta Canada culled "evidence from thirty placebo-controlled trials, involving nearly 20,000 people, where adults took one of three anti-obesity drugs — orlistat, sibutramine or rimonabant — for a year or longer." They found that pills like orlistat reduce weight by less than 5%. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends stopping the use of anti-obesity drugs if 5% of total body weight is not lost after three months. In other words, the Institute cannot justify using pills to lose weight.


In addition, some of the drugs, like rimonabant, give users an increased risk of mental health problems. Those taking rimonabant were 40% more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. (Rimonabant is sold in the UK under the name Acomplia, but is not available in the US because it's so likely to make patients commit suicide. Thanks, FDA! )


Doctors say that selling anti-obesity drugs over the counter perpetuates the myth that losing weight is as easy as popping a pill. Professor Gareth Williams, professor of medicine at the University of Bristol, has earth-shattering news: "Globally, obesity is spiralling out of control and will only be reined in by public health campaigns that somehow persuade people to eat less and exercise more." Yeah, but then the drug companies wouldn't rake in billions of dollars!

Fat Pills Give Modest Weight Loss [BBC News]
Weight-loss Drug Increases Chance Of Depression [Guardian]