Big Pharma and the Supplement Industry Cash In On Keeping You Fat

Big Pharma is on the hunt for ways to help you lose weight.

Sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? Not so fast. The US weight loss market is a cash cow worth more than $60 billion. Of course Big Pharma wants its slice of the pie. And it believes drugs are the answer.

The FDA hasn’t approved a weight loss drug in 13 years. But that could change soon. Three drugs are on the table right now. They’ve all been rejected once already, but they’re being submitted again. An FDA panel is now backing at least one of them, even though the evidence shows they won’t work at all for about 60 percent of people. The other 40 percent might see minimal results at best.

Worse? Evidence shows that some weight loss pills can cause serious health problems, from heart issues to mental illness.

Weight Loss with a Side of Heart Attack?

Two of the three weight loss drugs currently under FDA review are simply new concoctions of existing prescription drugs.

Qnexa is a combination of an amphetamine and an anti-convulsant drug. It’s the one that just got a 20-2 vote of approval from an FDA panel. The final ruling is expected in mid-April.

This drug has the most impressive weight loss results of any. But studies show that it raises the heart rate and causes heart palpitations, two side effects that can lead to heart attack. It’s also linked to psychiatric problems and birth defects.

A long-term study has yet to be issued on the side effects of Qnexa. Conducting the study will cost millions and take years to complete. The drug’s supporters believe there should be a study to assess the safety of the drug, but not until after it gets released.

Dr. Elaine Morrato from the University of Colorado believes Qnexa fills an “urgent need” for people with obesity. Dr. Kenneth Burman of the Washington Hospital Center is another supporter. “The potential benefits seem to trump the side effects,” he says. But he’s less certain of the outcome. “In truth, only time will tell.”

Other top doctors don’t see it the same way. They believe the drugs are dangerous and there are much better ways to lose weight.

Dr. Michael S. Lauer is a cardiologist at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. He was one of the two people on the FDA panel to vote against approval of Qnexa. He believes the side effects are a danger signal.

“The consequence of making a mistake here is huge,” he says. “We’ve unfortunately had many examples of having made mistakes before.”

Contrave is another drug that’s being resubmitted for FDA approval. It’s a combination of an antidepressant and an anti-smoking drug.

The problem with Contrave is that it’s ineffective. Only 40 percent of patients on the drug saw “positive” results. That means they lost five percent of their body weight.

As an example, take 100 people who weigh 250 pounds and are all taking Contrave. Only 40 of them will lose around 12 pounds. The other 60 people will lose nothing. These results barely even classify it as a weight loss drug by FDA standards.

The third drug seeking FDA approval is a one-of-a-kind weight loss pill called lorcaserin. It works by stimulating serotonin receptors and “tricking” your brain into not eating. On the first review, FDA described lorcaserin’s efficacy as “marginal.”

Again, that’s not the worst part. One study shows that it is linked to cancerous tumor development in animals. Marginal weight loss at the expense of cancer risk? Not exactly a good trade off.

But Big Pharma isn’t alone in peddling ineffective weight loss “solutions” that do little more than lighten your wallet.

The $2.4 Billion Industry with No Results

Natural weight loss supplements generate $2.4 billion in revenues in the US. You can have your pick from hundreds of options.

Unfortunately, a new study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise shows that most weight loss supplements simply don’t work.

Melinda Manore, a professor of nutrition and exercise sciences at Oregon State University and a board member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, led the study.

She reviewed hundreds of weight loss supplements and found flaws with most of them.

Her study looked at four categories of weight loss supplements:

  • Products that block the absorption of fat or carbs
  • Stimulants that boost metabolism – like synephrine or ephedra
  • Products that claim to change body composition by decreasing fat
  • Appetite suppressants

Manore discovered that many of these products had no clinical trials that proved they work. Those studies that had “positive” results showed an average of about two pounds of weight loss.

Many also had small sample sizes and there was little or no follow-up to determine whether the weight loss lasted.

“Unless you alter your diet and get daily exercise, no (weight loss) supplement is going to have a big impact,” she says.

Manore does say that some weight loss supplements have positive results. But she notes that they can have side effects “ranging from the unpleasant, such as bloating and gas, to very serious issues such as strokes and heart problems.” The evidence clearly points to one thing: no magic pill can help you lose weight and keep it off. Not from Big Pharma…and not from the natural supplement industry.

The good news is there are scientifically proven ways to manage your weight. And the only side effects you’ll see are positive ones.

Three Ways to Lose Weight Now

New research from top universities – including Harvard and Duke – shows that lifestyle changes are vital for weight loss. Their lifestyle intervention program helped obese people lose weight and keep it off. They also saw major improvements in their blood pressure.

Try these three things to drop pounds now…

  •  Exercise daily. That could mean doing an interval-training routine at the gym… Or taking a long walk when you wake up each morning. If you have the luxury, walk to work or the grocery store instead of driving.
  •  Another way to avoid weight gain is to not eat spontaneously. Plan your meals for the week. Or at least plan your dinner each morning. Make sure you eat plenty of vegetables at each meal. You’ll want to eat fruit, too. Berries are your best bet. But stay away from sugary fruit juices. And avoid eating processed foods and breads.

Add more protein and healthy fats to your diet in the form of grass-fed beef, pastured pork and poultry, sardines and wild salmon, coconut oil and avocados. These nutritious foods will satisfy your hunger for hours. And they won’t spike your insulin levels, which can prompt your body to store fat.The pharmaceutical industry and some supplement manufacturers would like you to believe there’s a magic pill that can help you lose weight. They also want you to believe that weight loss is difficult and involves sacrifice and deprivation.

Nothing could be further from the truth. When you consume organic, whole, natural foods you won’t feel hungry. That’s because these foods are rich in nutrients and full of protein, healthy fats and slowly digested carbs. These foods will help you naturally gravitate toward your optimal weight.

Add some exercise to the equation…and you’ll see that no pills are necessary.

Related Articles:

Health Topic: Big Pharma | Health Warning


  1. Hols says:

    So True! I adapted all of the healthy food suggestions on my own Jan 2011 and lost over 100lbs and have been able to keep it off. I don’t eat red meat or pork at all though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *