Fighting obesity with new diet drugs

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- The latest diet drug to hit the market is two drugs in one.

Doctors are no longer looking at just speeding up the metabolism or trying to control appetite. They are also looking at how the brain reacts to food.

Contrave is the latest diet drug to hit the market. Available by prescription, it works differently than many past treatments.

Dr. Art Mollen said it adds a medication not normally associated with the diet industry.

"It combines two drugs and one is called Naltrexone," Mollen said. "Naltrexone is a drug that is used for addiction. It is used for alcohol addiction, drug addiction."

Mollen said the other drug in Contrave is Wellbutrin, which does work to suppress the appetite.

Another recently approved drug, Qsymia is similar.

"The Qsymia is a combination of Phentermine and Topamax," Mollen said. "Phentermine is an amphetamine."

That can speed up your metabolism while the Topamax works on appetite control.

"The Topamax can work on certain areas of your brain to decrease your appetite so that you are eating less," Mollen explained.

Some studies have shown you can lose up to 25 pounds in six months with these drugs, but Mollen said that is only if you add another ingredient.

"You always have to combine dietary changes," he said. "You have to combine exercise when you are doing any type of weight-loss drug."

Without changing your diet and exercise, chances are the drug will not help and Mollen said even at that, it may not be for everyone.

"So they are recommending that if people get on these drugs, say for a period of 12 weeks, and they only lose a couple of pounds, well, they should get off of them," Mollen said.

If the drugs do not work in that time, Mollen said they probably will not.

He said before trying a drug, you may want to look at the diet and exercise program alone. He said some simple changes may be both easier and less expensive.

"If they want to diet, they should eliminate the pasta and rice and bread from their diet, minimize the amount of red meat you are eating," Mollen said.

Contrave can be $200 or more per month and is available only with a prescription.