Another weight loss drug hits the market. Contrave, a prescription weight loss pill that’s a combination of two different medications, was approved by the FDA. It joins the roster of other weight loss pills to reach pharmacy shelves only to be the subject of scrutiny later due to health concerns. Is Contrave for weight loss effective – and is it safe?
Prescription Weight Loss Pills: What is Contrave?
Contrave is a prescription diet pill that combines the anti-depressant medication bupropion with naltrexone, a drug used in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. This dual approach to weight loss targets obesity in two ways.
Bupropion increases levels of dopamine in the brain, which reduces appetite and helps the body burn more energy, while naltrexone makes food less palatable and helps to maintain the initial weight loss initiated by the bupropion.
How well does it work? In four one-year trials involving over 3,000 obese people, the group taking Contrave lost only 4.2% more weight than those who took a placebo. This falls short of what the medical community and the FDA likes to see from a weight loss pill.
To be considered “effective”, those taking a diet medication must lose at least 5% more weight than those taking a placebo. On the plus side, in three of the four studies, more than a third of the participants lost at least 5% of their total body weight.
Contrave Risks and Side-Effects
Concave doesn’t quite reach the standards of what the medical community deems ideal for a weight-loss pill, but is it safe? In trials, Concave modestly raised blood pressure during the first two months participants took it. Constipation, nausea and headache were also common side effects
Of particular concern is the potential for heart-related problems. Other weight loss medications like Meridia and Fen-Phen were removed from the market, because of heart-related issues. In the studies, there were a few cases of heart palpitations and vertigo, but no obvious heart problems, but this isn’t surprising since the studies were only carried out for a year. It could take years for heart problems to show up.
One additional concern about Contrave for weight loss is one of its two components, bupropion, increases the risk of seizures. In fact, during the trials, two participants experienced seizures, and the risk for seizures could be as high as one in 1,000 people who take it.
Contrave Weight Loss Pill: The Bottom Line?
Contrave appears to be modestly effective for weight loss, but the long-term side effects, especially its effects on the heart, are unknown. For some obese patients the benefits may outweigh the potential risks, but approach this drug with caution until more is known. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of diet medications before taking one. It could come back to bite you later.
Medscape.com. “Most FDA Advisers Say Likely Benefits of Contrave Diet Drug Outweigh Its Cardiovascular Risks”