When will Qsymia be available? 'By the end of the year,' says Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom

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"Today" host Matt Lauer sat down Wednesday (July 18) with Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D, a weight loss specialist, and Dr. Roshini Raj, a board certified MD in Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine, to talk about Qsymia, the latest weight loss drug to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The drug is a combination of an appetite suppressant and an anti-seizure medication, which Dr. Fernstrom says was also showing a reduction of appetite in the people taking it.

"The combo pill is to actually bathe the brain in two different kinds of signals ... the stimulant that reduces appettite," says Fernstrom. "Then by suppressing brain activity so you don't get seizures, it also reduces appetite. So you have something that in low, but effective doses, as a 1-2 punch can give this combination."

Dr. Raj adds that in the study done in 3700 people, the drug was also show to "reduce blood sugar, high blood pressure and cholesterol."

However, the 3700 test subjects were also combining the drug with diet and exercise, which Dr. Raj says should be used "in conjunction" with the Qsymia.

"This is not for the casual person who wants to lose 10-20 lbs.," Dr. Raj adds. "This is really approved for people who are obese, which is a BMI of 30, or significantly overweight, which is a BMI of 27+ with one other weight-related condition, such as Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol."

Side effects include an increase in heart rate, so people with recent heart disease or stroke problems should not take it, nor should pregnant women take the drug because of a risk of birth defects. The other side effects are pretty mild -- nausea, dry mouth, "feeling a little out of it."

Finally, Dr. Fernstrom says the drug will be available soon.

"This one's going to be readily avilable probably by the end of the year ... by the end of the year you'll be having [Qsymia]," says Fernstrom.
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