Contrave–New Weight Loss Drug

Prescription Contrave was just approved by the FDA in September 2014, making it the fourth prescription weight loss drug approved by the FDA for long-term use.

The other 3 prescription weight loss drugs include Qsymia and Belviq (approved for use in 2012) and Alli (Orlistat) the over the counter version of Xenical. But don’t forget that diet and exercise are still key components for any of these drugs to be most effective.

Last year, the weight loss industry in the U.S. brought in a wopping 60.5 billion dollars. Despite a small 1.8% dip in revenue last year, there’s no denying this industry is still booming.  From do-it-yourself diet books to weight loss surgery, the options for weight loss and maintenance are endless.

Contrave is actually a combination of two drugs that are already on the market, naltrexone, which is used to treat addictions, and bupropion, which is an anti-depressant.  The exact way that Contrave works is not fully understood, but it did outperform the placebo in clinical trials.

In order to receive a prescription for Contrave, adults must fall under the obesity classification with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.  Overweight adults may also be eligible for a prescription if they have a health condition that can be related to their weight, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, in addition to a BMI of 27 or higher.

Before deciding whether or not to take a prescription weight loss drug, it’s important to consider a few other factors besides eligibility. Contrave is not a miracle drug.  Participants who took Contrave and followed a diet and exercise plan in the clinical trials, lost an average of 4.1% more weight than placebo users at the end of one year.  That’s right, diet and exercise are still part of the deal.  In fact, the FDA recommends that doctors stop Contrave if the patient doesn’t show a 5% weight loss in the first 12 weeks on the prescription.  In other words, you can’t just pop a Contrave and eat whatever you’d like.  Dust off your gym pass and be ready to skip the drive-thru, because if you’re thinking about asking for a prescription for this pill you’re going to have to back it up with health conscious eating and activity!

In addition to a lifestyle change, you will also need to consider possible side effects.  Contrave users reported experiencing nausea, vomiting, headache, and dizziness.  Constipation, dry mouth, diarrhea, and insomnia were also among the more common side effects reported.  Uncomfortable as these may be, they appear mild compaired to the list of risks associated with this drug.  The FDA warns that using Contrave can cause seizures, increase blood pressure, and raised heart rate.  When taken for other conditions, the two drugs that were combined to make Contrave have been associated with increased risk for suicidal thoughts and “serious neuropsychiatric events.”

Finally, even though it’s been approved for use, Contrave is still undergoing clinical trials.  The FDA is still evaluating cardiovascular risks that go along with its use, as well as performing studies on the relationships between Contrave and memory, impaired liver and kidney function, other drug interactions, and possible use in children.

Ultimately, the way you lose weight is up to you.  If you’re thinking about using Contrave or another prescription weight loss drug, be sure to talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian nutritionist in order to make the best, safest choice for you, and to make the most of your prescription.

Thank you to Meghan P., dietetics student at Eastern Michigan University, for her help with this blog!


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