Experimental drug shows promise for fighting obesity

January 9th, 2008 - 2:26 pm ICT by admin  


Washington, Jan 9 (ANI): The first clinical studies of an experimental drug, designed to fight obesity, have revealed that obese people who take it for 12 weeks even at very low doses, manage to lose weight.

The study, led by Steven Heymsfield of Merck Research Laboratories, suggest that the drug called taranabant, which fights obesity by blocking cannabinoid receptors in the brain, causes people to consume fewer calories and burn more.

Cannabinoid receptors are responsible for the psychological effects of marijuana (Cannabis sativa), and natural endocannabinoids are important regulators of energy balance.

The effects of marijuana on appetite have been known for millennia from its medicinal and recreational use, Heymsfield said.

The ingredient responsible stimulates cannabinoid receptors. When you block the cannabinoid system with an antagonist like taranabant, you suppress appetite, he added.

However, the study shows that the drug, developed by Merck, comes with an increased risk of adverse side effects at higher doses including mild to moderate gastrointestinal and psychiatric effects.

Taranabant is a structurally novel, highly selective, potent CB1R inverse agonist, the researchers said.

In the study, a multicenter, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted.

It included 533 obese patients, who showed that the drug induces significant weight loss at doses ranging from 0.5 to 6 milligrams.

That was surprising. We didnt expect weight loss at all doses, Heymsfield said.

The researchers then conducted separate food intake and energy expenditure studies in overweight and moderately obese people who took a single 4- or 12-milligram dose of taranabant.

Those studies showed that people taking 12 milligrams of the drug consumed 27 percent fewer calories than those taking a placebo. People taking the drug also expended more energy while at rest and appeared to burn more fat.

The studies also found that higher doses of the drug caused two types of adverse events, Heymsfield said.

These negative side effects included gastrointestinal upset, including nausea and vomiting, as well as increased irritability.

The study is published in Cell Metabolism, a publication of Cell Press. (ANI)

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