Are Weight Loss Pills Safe?

Are Weight Loss Pills Safe?

August 21, 2019 28 By William Morgan


“Are Weight Loss Pills Safe?” Despite the myriad menu of FDA-approved
medications for weight loss, they’ve only been prescribed for
about 1 in 50 obese patients. We worship medical magic bullets
in this country. What gives? One of the reasons anti-obesity drugs are
so highly stigmatized is that historically they’ve been anything but magical, and
the bullets have been blanks or worse. Most weight loss drugs to date that
were initially approved as safe have since been pulled from the
market for unforeseen side effects that turned them into a public threat. As you may remember, it all started
with DNP, a pesticide with a promise to safely melt away fat, but instead
melted away people’s eyesight. It was actually one of the things that
led to the passage of the landmark Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in 1938. Thanks to the internet, though,
DNP has made a comeback with predictably lethal results.
Then came the amphetamines. Currently, more than half a million
Americans may be addicted to amphetamines like crystal meth, but
the original amphetamine epidemic was generated by drug
companies and doctors. By the 1960s, drug companies were
churning out about 80,000 kilos a year, which is nearly enough
for a weekly dose for every man, woman, and
child in the United States. Billions of doses a year were
prescribed for weight loss. Weight loss clinics were raking
in huge profits. A dispensing diet doctor could buy a
100,000 amphetamine tablets for less than $100 and
turn around and sell them to patients for $12,000. At a 1970 Senate Hearing,
Senator Thomas Dodd (father of “Dodd-Frank”
Senator Chris Dodd) suggested America’s speed freak problem
was no “accidental development.” He said the pharmaceutical industry’s
“multihundred million dollar advertising budgets, frequently the most
costly ingredient in the price of a pill, have, pill by pill, led, coaxed
and seduced post-World War II generations into the
‘freaked-out’ drug culture.” I’ll leave drawing the Big Pharma
parallels to the current opioid crisis as an exercise for the viewer. Aminorex was a widely-prescribed
appetite suppressant, before it was pulled for
causing lung damage. Eighteen million Americans were on
fen-phen before it was pulled from the market for causing severe
damage to heart valves. Meridia was pulled for
heart attacks and strokes; Acomplia for psychiatric side-effects,
including suicide, and the list goes on. The fen-phen debacle resulted in
some of the largest litigation pay-outs in the industry’s history, but
it’s all baked into the formula. If you read the journal
PharmacoEconomics—and who doesn’t— sure, a new weight loss drug
may injure and kill so many that “expected litigation cost”
could exceed $80 million. But Big Pharma consultants
estimate, if successful, the drug could bring in over
$100 million, so do the math.