Effectiveness, tolerability and practical application of the newer generation anti-obesity medications

Jeffrey S MacDaniels, Thomas L Schwartz


Objective: Comparison of the efficacy and tolerability of five newer anti-obesity medications to guide clinical decision making, examining bupropion–naltrexone combination, liraglutide, lorcaserin, orlistat, and phentermine–topiramate combination.

Methods: A brief literature review and internet search for high-powered, randomized and placebo-controlled drug trials was conducted. Drug trial information was established for five currently approved anti-obesity medications. Secondarily, a statistical comparison of medications through Number Needed to Treat (NNT) and Number Needed to Harm (NNH) analyses were attempted as a way to provide a clinical analysis across these varied medications. Finally, a commentary about clinical application is issued for each agent accounting for typical side-effects, serious side-effects, mechanism of action and ease of use.

Results: All five agents are currently approved oral medications to lower weight. The NNT range was 3–12, and NNH range was 4–17. The agent with the best NNT is phentermine–topiramate combination (NNT=3) and the agent with the best NNH is bupropion–naltrexone combination (NNH=17).

Conclusion: When considering each patient’s clinical presentation, knowledge of each drug’s mechanism of action, side-effect profile, efficacy, and NNT and NNH values can help in selecting an anti-obesity medication to augment his or her weight loss efforts.

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MacDaniels JS, Schwartz TL. Effectiveness, tolerability and practical application of the newer generation anti-obesity medications. Drugs in Context 2016; 5: 212291. doi: 10.7573/dic.212291

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