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Archive for May 18th, 2007

Phentermine is Not Phat

Posted by David Bradley on May 18th, 2007

PhentermineMore and more people in the developed world face each morning knowing that the digital display on their bathroom scales will have more sad news for them as we plunge deeper into the purported obesity epidemic. What are we to do? Surely not add exercise to our daily routines and cut out the pork-rinds and candy? Surely not! There is an alternative! Pharmaceutical intervention, a multimillion, if not multibillion, dollar industry, that taps into our greed for quick fixes to the growing health problem of overweight and obesity.

If you ever read an email, then no doubt you will have had at least one spam message touting the benefits of one or more of the following: Tenuate, Amfepramone, Phenylpropanolamine (PPA), Ritalin, (methylphenidate), Clenbuterol, and last, but not least, the big one, Phentermine.

The makers of these appetite suppressants all produce entirely politically correct websites and marketing literature outlining the benefits of short courses of their drugs for combating the problem of stubborn obesity and the health risks – cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke – that it brings. In glossy promotional style, they explain how these compounds work, how users will quickly reap the rewards (providing they add a pinch of exercise and body-swerve the all-you-can-eat buffet). And, yes, these drugs can work. They can indeed reduce your appetite and help in the ongoing effort of shedding excess body mass.

But, read on, the small, small print reveals a few properties of such molecules that the manufacturers by law have to tell you about, but would rather not. In fact, some of the compounds in the above list are unlikely to appear in any current spam because they have been banned because of safety concerns. Tenuate (amfepramone), for instance, which works by mimicking noradrenalin, was taken off the recommended eating list by the European Medicine Approval Agency in 1999. PPA, a vasoconstrictor, is used to control urinary incontinence in dogs, but is not approved for use in treating obesity in the UK. The more common indication for Ritalin is in treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but it can cause hypertension and heart problems, the very problems the use of appetite suppressants for weight loss are trying to prevent.

The Big P, is probably the most well known of the “antiobesity” drugs, and one of the most widely touted on the Internet. But, it too comes with a wide range of potentially adverse effects, that can make it hazardous for people with hypertension or heart problems. Among the known side-effects of phentermine use are mood swings, chest pains, tremors, and palpitations. An overdose of phentermine causes hallucinations and seizures. But, worse than that is that buying prescription-only drugs over the Internet brings its own risk. Many of these products are produced generically and usually illegally in Pakistan, the Philippines, and elsewhere, and there are no guarantees of quality, no strict controls on contaminants, and no way for consumers to know whether the product they buy contains the drug they ordered or whether it contains a toxic impostor.

So, what of the alternative obesity treatments, the so-called herbal remedies? Well, one of the most well known is nothing more than a pyramid-selling scam, while the jury is still out on whether another, Hoodia gordonii, does what it says on the tin. Again, buying such products from dodgy Internet sites or from a spam supplier, could be the biggest mistake you could make, after reaching the point where you have a fat chance of ever body-swerving a buffet again.