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Keeping weight-loss drugs in perspective

April 1, 2006

If you're dangerously overweight, diet pills may help — but not without major lifestyle changes.

Diet drugs have gotten a lot of press lately. In January 2006, a federal advisory panel recommended that the FDA make available, over the counter, a popular prescription weight-loss medication, orlistat (Xenical). The FDA usually takes the panel's advice, but approval of the orlistat (which would be called Alli) is not a sure thing. Many question the drug's effectiveness in a broader setting; others worry about its side effects. Considerable excitement surrounds rimonabant (Acomplia), a type of weight-loss drug that works by blocking the same receptors in the brain that cause the "munchies" in marijuana users. Rimonabant reduces weight, quiets food cravings, and improves cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease, including waist circumference.

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