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"Drugs offer only modest weight loss"

Globe and Mail

Source: Globe and Mail

Published: 16 Nov 2021

Category: Pharmaceutical

Rating: (4½ stars)

what they said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

Most severely overweight patients taking anti-obesity drugs will realize only modest weight loss, especially if they fail to augment the medications with regular exercise and a healthy diet, say Canadian researchers after analyzing numerous studies on the agents' effectiveness.
The researchers looked at the results of 30 clinical trials of three drugs recommended for obese patients for long-term use - orlistat, sibutramine and rimonabant - and found that they helped people shed less than 11 pounds on average.
"We found that the amount of weight loss on average with these medications ranges between three and five kilograms," said principal author Raj Padwal, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Alberta...

how did it rate? (more information)

Criteria Rating
Total Score 9 of 10
Availability of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Novelty of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Disease Mongering Satisfactory (?)
Treatment Options Satisfactory (?)
Costs of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Evidence Satisfactory (?)
Quantification of Benefits of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Harms of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Sources of Information Satisfactory (?)
Relies on Press Release Not Applicable
Quantification of Harms of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)

what we said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

This is a timely article based on a reliable source. With obesity and overweight more prevalent than ever before, the original journal article and the news story that followed about anti-obesity drugs come at an opportune time. Whereas most news media coverage of drugs typically conveys the findings of a single study, this article conveys the findings of an updated Cochrane systematic review (which encompasses a total of 30 trials).

There are a few noteworthy successes to discuss about this article. First, there is significant and clear text discussing the potential harms of taking anti-obesity drugs. Second, there is an extensive discussion of barriers, including systemic problems (i.e., lack of professionals and long waits) that can lead patients to avoid
necessary treatment. And finally, there is a provocative discussion about how obesity should be defined and when anti-obesity drugs should be prescribed. These last two points, in particular, take this article from good to great, as these details provide helpful context and promote a forum for dialogue amongst health providers as well as between providers and patients.

One suggestion for improvement would be to place greater emphasis on some of the "cointerventions" (other therapies or treatments, such as keeping a food diary, taking exercise counselling, and following "deficit" or low energy diets) participants in the various studies were required to follow.

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