The headlines for articles and TV news reflect the deference that reporters give to pharmaceutical companies when reporting on drugs and health treatments.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today (MJS/MPT) released an article April 19, 2015 about the effect of diet drugs on heart health; Slippery Slope: Diet Drugs no Help for Heart. The article is by John Fauber, Reporter, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today; Coulter Jones, MedPage Today Staff; Kristina Fiore, Staff Writer, MedPage Today.
The article outlines the history of diet drugs in the US and the impact that these drugs had on public health. The results of clinical studies and reported problems to the FDA are included for the new drugs approved in the last five years.
The agency approved the drugs despite the potential for serious side effects, including suicidal thinking, increased heart rate, and cancer risk, and no proof the drugs improve the main health concern posed by obesity — cardiovascular harms such as heart attacks.
The by-line for the article provides a major insight into how the latest five diet drugs were approved.
Makers of diet drugs spent more than $60 million on payments to doctors, organized medicine, and lobbyists to get their drugs approved.
The MJS/MPT article might have been titled: Five new diet drugs cause deaths due to heart disease and stroke. The drugs approved for weight loss are Belviq, Osymia, Contrave, and Saxenda. The drug approved for reducing binge eating is Vyvanse.
Several of these drugs were initially approved for treatment of other diseases, and then adapted to attempt to treat obesity, e.g. attention deficit and type II diabetes. New diabetes drugs that extract sugar from the kidneys are also being touted as potential weight loss drugs. The US Senate helped get these drugs approved by influencing the policies of the FDA in 2011 when expedited drug development was included in the FDA’s mission statement.
Obesity is a national problem in the US. Obesity definitely causes type II diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and kidney and liver failures. Each of these new drugs have been shown to cause life-threatening health issues, including heart disease, strokes, pancreatitis, kidney failure and type II diabetes.
The FDA mission statement shows a divergence from its original mission of protecting consumers by regulating food and drug safety. The FDA mission has expanded into assuming responsibility for speeding the development of new products. The FDA has assumed a significant role in counterterrorism.
What We Do
FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.
FDA is also responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines more effective, safer, and more affordable and by helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to maintain and improve their health. FDA also has responsibility for regulating the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco products to protect the public health and to reduce tobacco use by minors.
Finally, FDA plays a significant role in the Nation’s counterterrorism capability. FDA fulfills this responsibility by ensuring the security of the food supply and by fostering development of medical products to respond to deliberate and naturally emerging public health threats.
The response of the FDA to reported problems that these diet drugs have caused deaths and hospitalizations has been to order post-marketing studies for heart disease and strokes. Some of these diet drugs now have FDA orders to perform an analysis of cancer and pancreatitis occurrences.
Obesity is a huge market. For those suffering from underlying causes of obesity related to other health issues such as malfunctioning or dead thyroids and genetic disorders, there may be no cure available. For the rest of the population, reduced calorie diets, more exercise, better sleep and stress reduction provides sustained weight reduction. For those at greatest risk, surgery can start the process. Long-term weight loss requires attention to diet, exercise, sleep and stress.
Diet pills are not the answer to reducing obesity. The FDA’s bowed to political, social and manufacturers’ pressures by approving these new diet pills. This will lead to years of increased health costs from treating the side effects of these drugs. The FDA needs to return to its original charter, which was to protect the safety of consumers of foods and drugs. Approving diet pills without a clear assessment of the overall health effects on the population did not meet the mission.