US panel approves first obesity drug in a decade

Washington: An advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration has given its approval to an anti-obesity drug, in what could be the first new approved drug for losing weight in more than a decade.

Contrave, a drug developed by the California-based Orexigen Therapies, was given the nod by a 13-7 vote by the FDA expert panel yesterday, which advises the US regulatory body.

The FDA usually follows its recommendations, and is expected to make a final decision in January.

The panel said the drug was only modestly effective and was found to cause slight boosts in blood pressure and pulse.

It also urged a wider trial to assess potential heart attack risks.

The FDA earlier this year acted on the panel`s recommendations and denied two new obesity drugs, Qnexa and Lorcaserin, over cancer and heart risks.

The same agency in October requested US pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories pull its obesity drug Meridia from the US market after European tests found the key ingredient increased the risk of serious heart problems.

About one third of Americans are obese, and the only FDA-approved prescription diet pill on the market is Switzerland-based Roche Holding AG`s Xenical, which was
approved by the FDA in 1999.

Bureau Report

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