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Latest Weight-Loss Pill Offers Modest Results, Blocks 'Munchies'

A new drug billed as a magic bullet for obesity — rimonabant (Acomplia) — does help people lose weight, although not that much weight, and also helps lower cardiac risk factors, according to a review of studies. //

Rimonabant went on sale in Europe in July, and U.S. approval is pending before the Food and Drug Administration. The drug works in a new way, suppressing the appetite by targeting the brain cells involved in the "munchies" familiar to marijuana users.

"The use of rimonabant after one year produces modest weight loss of approximately 5 percent" of body weight, found reviewers led by Cintia Curioni, at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. "Compared with placebo, a 20-milligram pill produced a 4.9 kilogram greater reduction in body weight in trials with one-year results."

This translates to weight loss of a little under 11 pounds.

The review looked at four randomized controlled trials comparing rimonabant at two dosages and with placebo, after one or two years of treatment. Participants, all overweight or obese, followed a "mild" low-calorie diet, adjusted for individual body weight.

Only the higher dose — 20 milligrams — had significant impact on weight, waist circumference, cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

However, the higher dose brought on more, and more serious, side effects than both the lower dose and placebo.

The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research in all aspects of health care. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing trials on a topic.

The rimonabant studies took place in 350 trial centers in the United States, Canada and Europe.

The 6,625 participants were at least 18 years old and overweight or obese. One stud
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