Obesity drugs may bring dangerous side effects

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An essential part of obesity care is making sure treatments are safe for patients.

In a new study from the University of Cincinnati, researchers found strong side effects attributed to the use of anti-obesity medications.

In the study, the team reviewed data from the Food and Drug Administration’s Adverse Event Reporting System database from 2013-20.

Patients, physicians and other health care workers submit any suspected side effect from an anti-obesity medication to the system.

In the seven years analyzed, more than 18,000 unique adverse events were reported from more than 15,000 patients taking various anti-obesity medications.

The study reported that 4.9% of the reported adverse events were deaths of patients, with 7.6% listed as life-threatening events, 35% requiring hospitalization and 5.9% described as disability cases.

The overall fatality rate of 4.9% is considered high, but this study does not show causality but rather informs where additional research and monitoring may be needed.

A unique finding of the study is that deaths represented 4% of all adverse events attributed to orlistat, an over-the-counter anti-obesity medication.

Since orlistat is the only anti-obesity drug available to the public without a prescription, the team says there needs to be further investigation of the fatal cases potentially associated with using this medication.

The most common adverse events reported among users of anti-obesity medications were nausea, vomiting, dizziness and headache.

There were also 1,765 reports of cardiovascular disease, 1,327 reports of kidney complications and 194 reports of cancer.

The study began in light of the fact that several anti-obesity medications have been pulled from the market due to documented adverse events, including the withdrawal in February 2020 of the drug lorcaserin following reports that it may cause cancer.

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The study is published in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy.

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