Washington Post Examines Pressures on FDA for Fast Obesity Drug Approval
The Washington Post on Friday examined the pharmaceutical industry's "massive drive to develop new diet pills" and its "intense campaign to persuade the government to make it easier to get weight-loss drugs onto the market." Some consumer advocates worry that the increased pressure for swift approval of obesity medications will "produce little more than the next round of marginally effective, unsafe diet pills," the Post reports. FDA convened a panel of experts last week to discuss the issue. The panel recommended that obesity drugs be approved after one year of safety data instead of the two years currently required. While the agency wants to encourage obesity drug development, officials know that the medications approved for obesity may also be used by patients who are less than 20 pounds overweight, and they are concerned about ensuring safety, according to the Post. Some medications are showing promise, but experts say patients may have to take multiple pills for extended periods of time and could regain weight if they stop treatment.
"I think [FDA] should be willing to tolerate more risks. If a person has a disease you have to balance the risks versus the benefits, as we do with all other diseases," American Obesity Association President Richard Atkinson said. Larry Sasich of Public Citizen's Health Research Group said, "These drugs have a 40- to 50-year history of clearly doing more harm than good. None of them have ever been shown that they can be taken safely for a long enough time to reduce deaths from chronic illness caused by obesity" (Stein, Washington Post, 9/17).