The weight loss drug Qsymia, formerly known as Qnexa, is causing a lot of buzz having been approved by the FDA on July 17. This approval marks the second weight loss drug approved this summer, preceded by Lorcaserin, and only the second since Alli’s approval in 1999.

Manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Vivus, Inc., this prescription weight loss drug has been shown in clinical trials to help individuals lose between 13 and 15 percent of their body weight (Lorcaserin showed a 10 percent loss in studies). Qsymia is a combination of the drugs phentermine and topiramate. The phentermine has been a controversial weight loss drug with components that help suppress the appetite, while topiramate makes you feel more satiated, or satisfied.

As with any prescription drug, Qsymia is not without side effects, which can include birth defects, memory problems, dry mouth, tingling in fingers and toes, insomnia, and constipation.

To get a better look at the implications of Qsymia, I spoke with’s resident pharmacist Dr. Sarah G. Khan. When asked if this drug could be a reasonable aid in weight loss, Dr. Khan stated, “I think this could be reasonable for someone with no other medications and with no health conditions. Women should be particularly cautious with Qsymia as it can interact with birth controls.”

Qsymia will be prescribed along with proper diet and exercise. Unfortunately, with diet pills many people think they can simply take the pill and magically lose weight exerting no other effort. Dr. Khan weighed in on this debate too, and I asked if Qsymia will genuinely help someone who is overweight or obese without diet and exercise. “I would say yes and no,” was her answer. “It may help them lose weight initially but not teach them the habits needed to maintain the loss. This medicine is indicated in conjunction with diet and exercise and results can be maximized when all three are used together.”

Qsymia is only available through prescription, and the drug is not necessary at all if you implement a healthy diet and exercise plan on your own.

“I think the 80/20 rule is helpful. Eighty percent of the time eat healthy and follow your meal plan and 20 percent of the time treat yourself but don’t go overboard,” advised Dr. Khan. “Commit to the process and you will be successful. Slow and steady wins the race.”

After market studies will continue to investigate known side effects and be on the watch for any new cases that present themselves.

Instead of going after what is really a quick, unsustainable fix, put your effort in to a healthy diet and exercise plan first, which is what Dr. Khan recommends. The only side effects with diet and exercise are typically improved overall wellness, a healthy weight, and a better lifestyle.

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