New medication may help obese people at risk for type 2 diabetes lose weight

An experimental combination of drugs may result in unprecedented weight loss and dramatic improvements in metabolic risk factors among obese individuals who are in jeopardy of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study from a team of Duke University researchers.

The group reported in the journal The Lancet that a combination of the obesity-fighting drug phentermine and the anti-seizure medication topiramate helped a group of severely overweight individuals lose nearly 10 percent of their body weight on average after one year of treatment.

Additionally, participants saw significant improvements in tests of blood pressure, cholesterol, the inflammation marker C-reactive protein and HbA1c levels, which measure long-term blood sugar control. Many patients who started the study with type 2 diabetes were able to go off of their medications by the end of the investigation.

For the study, researchers administered either the combination of medications or a placebo to 2,487 individuals from across the country who had a body mass index of between 27 and 45 and had two or more co-morbidities, including diabetes or heart disease. After the one-year study, participants who received the active medication lost an average of 8.6 percent of their body mass.

This equated to 19 pounds more weight loss than participants in the placebo group. The only other anti-obesity medication currently on the market, Xenical, has only been shown to improve weight loss by seven pounds per year, compared to the placebo.

"This kind of weight loss, coupled with significant reductions in cardiometabolic risk factors represents a potentially important advancement in the management of obesity," said Kishore M. Gadde, who led the study. "Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. We need more treatment options."