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USA: Weight-loss pill Qsymia approved by the FDA.

WorldWide Tech & Science. Francisco De Jesùs.

USA: Weight-loss pill Qsymia approved by the FDA.

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved a new weight loss drug from Vivus Inc. that many doctors consider the most effective therapy in a new generation of anti-obesity pills designed to help patients safely shed pounds.

The agency cleared the pill Qsymia for adults who are obese or overweight and have at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol.

Patients taking Qsymia for a year lost 6.7 percent of their body weight in one study and 8.9 percent in another study, the FDA said. That was more than two other weight loss pill recently reviewed by the FDA.

Despite its impressive performance in clinical trials, Qsymia is not exactly a scientific breakthrough, and its development underscores the slow pace of research for obesity treatments.

The drug is actually a combination of two older drugs that have long been known to help with weight loss: phentermine and topirimate.

Phentermine is a stimulant that suppresses the appetite, and has long been used for short-term weight loss. Topiramate is an anticonvulsant, sold by Johnson & Johnson as Topamax, that makes people feel more satiated after eating.

Researchers say the innovation of Qsymia lies in targeting multiple brain signals that drive people to overeat.
"We now know there are multiple pathways that determine how much energy we take in every day," said Dr. Tim Garvey of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "If you intervene on one pathway it's hard to make much of a difference, you really need to attack multiple mechanisms to get a pronounced effect."

Garvey helped conduct several pivotal trials of the drug.

Qsymia is the second weight loss drug approved by the FDA in less than a month, following Arena Pharmaceutical's pill Belviq in late June. Previously the agency had not approved a new drug for long-term weight loss since 1999.

With U.S. obesity rates nearing 35 percent of the adult population, many doctors have called on the FDA to approve new weight loss treatments. But a long line of prescription diet pills have been associated with dangerous side effects, particularly heart problems.

In 1997, the popular diet drug combination fen-phen was linked to heart valve damage. The cocktail of phentermine and fenfluramine was a popular weight loss combination prescribed by doctors, though it was never approved by the FDA. Fenfluramine was eventually withdrawn from the market.

Other safety failures for diet pills have continued to pile up in recent years. In 2010, Abbott Laboratories withdrew its drug Meridia after a study showed it increased heart attack and stroke.

The FDA's successive approval of Qsymia and Belviq suggests a new willingness to make weight loss medications available, even in the face of lingering safety issues.

The FDA initially rejected Vivus' drug in 2010 over concerns that it can cause birth defects if taken by pregnant women. The agency laid out a risk-management plan Tuesday specifically designed to minimize the chance of the women becoming pregnant while using the drug. It recommends that women of childbearing age test negative for pregnancy before starting the drug and take a monthly pregnancy test while taking it.

The agency also said patients with recent or unstable heart disease or stroke aren't good candidates for the drug because its effect on heart rates in those patients is not known. Vivus has to do studies of the heart effects of Qsymia, the FDA said.

Analysts estimate the new pill could garner more than $1 billion in sales by 2016, though Mountain View, Calif.-based Vivus Inc. plans a slow rollout.

The pill will launch in the last quarter of the year with a relatively small sales force of 150 representatives. Company executives say their initial marketing efforts will focus on obesity specialists, not general doctors.

"We're going to have to grow our sales organization in order to support the primary care market," said Vivus president Peter Tam, in an interview with the Associated Press.

Vivus had originally planned to market the drug under the brand name Qnexa. However, FDA regulators ordered the company to change the name to avoid potential confusion with similar sounding drugs.

Rival Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc. of San Diego plans to start selling Belviq in early 2013. A third California drugmaker, Orexigen Therapeutics Inc., is still running clinical trials of its product, Contrave, and is working toward an FDA approval date in 2014.


For Immediate Release: July 17, 2012
Media Inquiries: Morgan Liscinsky, 301-796-0397; morgan.liscinsky@fda.hhs.gov
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

FDA approves weight-management drug Qsymia.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Qsymia (phentermine and topiramate extended-release) as an addition to a reduced-calorie diet and exercise for chronic weight management.
The drug is approved for use in adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater (obese) or adults with a BMI of 27 or greater (overweight) who have at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure (hypertension), type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol (dyslipidemia).
BMI, which measures body fat based on an individual’s weight and height, is used to define the obesity and overweight categories. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of adults in the United States are obese.
“Obesity threatens the overall well being of patients and is a major public health concern,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Qsymia, used responsibly in combination with a healthy lifestyle that includes a reduced-calorie diet and exercise, provides another treatment option for chronic weight management in Americans who are obese or are overweight and have at least one weight-related comorbid condition.”
Qsymia is a combination of two FDA-approved drugs, phentermine and topiramate, in an extended-release formulation. Phentermine is indicated for short-term weight loss in overweight or obese adults who are exercising and eating a reduced calorie diet. Topiramate is indicated to treat certain types of seizures in people who have epilepsy and to prevent migraine headaches. 
Qsymia must not be used during pregnancy because it can cause harm to a fetus. Data show that a fetus exposed to topiramate, a component of Qsymia, in the first trimester of pregnancy has an increased risk of oral clefts (cleft lip with or without cleft palate). Females of reproductive potential must not be pregnant when starting Qsymia therapy or become pregnant while taking Qsymia. Females of reproductive potential should have a negative pregnancy test before starting Qsymia and every month while using the drug and should use effective contraception consistently while taking Qsymia.
The safety and efficacy of Qsymia were evaluated in two randomized, placebo-controlled trials that included approximately 3,700 obese and overweight patients with and without significant weight-related conditions treated for one year. All patients received lifestyle modification that consisted of a reduced calorie diet and regular physical activity.
The recommended daily dose of Qsymia contains 7.5 milligrams of phentermine and 46 mg of topiramate extended-release. Qsymia is also available at a higher dose (15 mg phentermine and 92 mg of topiramate extended-release) for select patients.
Results from the two trials show that after one year of treatment with the recommended and highest daily dose of Qsymia, patients had an average weight loss of 6.7 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively, over treatment with placebo. Approximately 62 percent and 69 percent of patients lost at least five percent of their body weight with the recommended dose and highest dose of Qsymia, respectively, compared with about 20 percent of patients treated with placebo.
Patients who did not lose at least three percent of their body weight by week 12 of treatment with Qsymia were unlikely to achieve and sustain weight loss with continued treatment at this dose. Therefore, response to therapy with the recommended daily dose of Qsymia should be evaluated by 12 weeks to determine, based on the amount of weight loss, whether to discontinue Qsymia or increase to the higher dose.  If after 12 weeks on the higher dose of Qsymia, a patient does not lose at least five percent of body weight, then Qsymia should be discontinued, as these patients are unlikely to achieve clinically meaningful weight loss with continued treatment.
Qsymia must not be used in patients with glaucoma or hyperthyroidism. Qsymia can increase heart rate; this drug’s effect on heart rate in patients at high risk for heart attack or stroke is not known. Therefore, the use of Qsymia in patients with recent (within the last six months) or unstable heart disease or stroke is not recommended. Regular monitoring of heart rate is recommended for all patients taking Qsymia, especially when starting Qsymia or increasing the dose. 
The FDA approved Qsymia with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), which consists of a Medication Guide advising patients about important safety information and elements to assure safe use that include prescriber training and pharmacy certification. The purpose of the REMS is to educate prescribers and their patients about the increased risk of birth defects associated with first trimester exposure to Qsymia, the need for pregnancy prevention, and the need to discontinue therapy if pregnancy occurs. Qsymia will only be dispensed through specially certified pharmacies. 
Vivus Inc. will be required to conduct 10 postmarketing requirements, including a long-term cardiovascular outcomes trial to assess the effect of Qsymia on the risk for major adverse cardiac events such as heart attack and stroke.
The most common side effects of Qsymia are tingling of hands and feet (paresthesia), dizziness, altered taste sensation, insomnia, constipation, and dry mouth.
Qsymia is marketed by Vivus Inc. in Mountain View, Calif.
For more information:
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.


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