A new drug that busts fats as well as tackle health problems like diabetes and smoking has been introduced in Britain. The drug has been estimated to reduce bodyweight by up to 10 per cent.
The drug Rimonabant, also called as Acomplia, has been said to be the first drug that targets the natural body system which governs several factors controlling weight, appetite, metabolism and energy use.
In addition it has been found to have the capacity to combat a smoker's craving for nicotine.
Drug regulators have decided to grant a license throughout the European Union for Rimonabant. And Britain is the first country to receive it. According to experts 20 per cent of Britain's are possible candidates for treatment.
However, the drug has to also receive approval from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. The NHS also receives advice from this institute for best practice and they are not expected to receive guidance on Rimonabant for at least two years.
With the drug expected to cost £55.20 per patient per month, or £1.97 per tablet, treating even a fraction of the eligible group could cost the NHS billions.
Sanofi Aventis, the drug's manufacturers, argues that the drug gives good value for money as against the £7 billion-per-year cost of overcoming obesity and overweight problems.
Trials were conducted on more than 6,000 patients in America and Europe. It was found that about a quarter of those patients who took Rimonabant lost more than 10 per cent of their initial body weight after a year. Half of them lost over 5 per cent of body weight. Waist circumference showed a reduction of approximately six to seven centimeters.
Significant improvements were also noted in glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride blood fats readings. In addition high-density lipoprotein fats or the good cholesterol showed an increase of 8 to 9 per cent although only half of this could be attributed to weight loss.
Trial data has also suggested that the drug can help people to give up smoking by overcoming their cravings. However, it is being marketed only to tackle obesity.
Rimonabant has been licensed for the treatment of obese patients, or overweight patients having associated risk factors such as type 2 diabetes or poor cholesterol and triglyceride readings.
It has been estimated that about one in five adults in the UK, around 10 million people, is clinically obese.
According to Anthony Barnett, a diabetes specialist from the University of Birmingham, obesity rates in Britain were climbing faster than anywhere else in the world and is expected to overtake that in the United States in 20 years.
David Haslam, a GP and clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, praised therapies such as Rimonabant calling them a "real step forward" as this was the only one, which targeted the endocannabinoid system unlike other anti obesity medications.
The endocannabinoid system regulates the appetite and Rimonabant works by blocking molecular receptors, which on activation, can trigger a cascade of biological events affecting food intake and energy use, as well as fat and glucose metabolism.
Dr Haslam, a GP from Hertfordshire said, 'Preventative measures are not enough. Priority should be given to treatment as well as prevention.The launch of Rimonabant is important news for patients who are overweight, with type 2 diabetes, or low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides. These patients are at high risk of developing heart disease.'
Rimonabant is scheduled to be launched later this year in the Irish Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Norway. US marketing approval is expected to come by the end of the year.